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An envelope containing crushed prescription medicine was responsible for Monday’s evacuation and closure of Camp Zama’s community mailroom in Japan and three satellite postal counters.

An analysis of the white powdery substance that fell from a bundle of letters removed from a mail sack around noon showed it to be non-toxic, said Zama spokesman Maj. Randy Cephus.

“It appeared to be crushed medication,” he said.

Cephus said it was a prescription medication, but declined to disclose the substance’s name or purpose.

The Kanagawa Prefectural police laboratory took samples of the substance to an off-post laboratory for analysis after the facilities were closed as a safety precaution.

Three U.S. and three Japanese employees working in the mail facility were decontaminated outside of Bldg. 383 adjacent to the Zama bowling lanes.

Mail operations at the New Sanno hotel, Stars and Stripes and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo were closed as a precaution.

None of the employees had an adverse reaction to the powder.

Capt. Trevor Wieck, 25th Postal Company commander, said although postal workers are supplied with rubber gloves to wear while handling letters and packages, wear is not mandatory.

All closed facilities reopened Tuesday.

Wieck said Zama postal employees receive training in procedures to take when suspicious packages or substances are detected.

“They did all the right things Monday,” he said.

Steve Nihiser of the U.S. Army Japan’s plans and exercises division said Zama fire specialists trained in hazardous material procedures decontaminated the six postal workers using a water and chlorine solution. Augmenting the medical team was Zama’s Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, Pacific, a special medical augmentation response team.

“Their primary focus was packaging the white powdery substance to prepare it for analysis,” he said. “We always assume a worst-case scenario.”

Nihiser said Monday’s incident apparently was not connected to a Feb. 18 incident at Atsugi Naval Air Facility, when two mail handlers reported itchy hands after touching a suspicious envelope. Subsequent tests by a Japanese police laboratory showed no chemical or biological substances, Navy officials reported.

Wieck said regulations are posted at Zama postal facilities explaining what can and cannot be sent through the mail system.

“Obviously, many are unaware what the regulations are,” he said. “Not everybody reads those signs.”

He said reminders about proper use of mail would be posted to the camp’s Channel 12 internal information channel.

“Prescription medicines should not be sent through the mails,” Cephus said. “We’ll be reemphasizing that to the community.”


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