Luggage powder likely harmless
March 18, 2003
ARLINGTON, Va. — White powder found on the luggage of a soldier who arrived in Washington from Germany and caused an Army medical nurse to suffer adverse reactions has been preliminarily labeled harmless, a hospital official said.
Analysts from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where the patient was admitted, used a chemical agent monitor and concluded that the powder was not a highly toxic or harmful chemical, said Bill Swisher, a spokesman at Walter Reed.
The patient, whose name was not released, traveled from Landstuhl Army Medical Center, Germany, to Ramstein Air Base, to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland and then to Walter Reed by bus. The patient recently was stationed in Afghanistan and medevac’d to Germany in the first week of March, said Swisher and Marie Shaw, a spokeswoman at Landstuhl.
As a precaution, the Walter Reed analysts are performing biological tests on the powder, but doubt it is a biological agent because it would not cause a person to suffer adverse reactions upon contact — which is the case here, Swisher said. Results for a biological test can take up to 48 hours, he said.
The Criminal Investigation Division is investigating what the powder was, and how it got onto the luggage.
“One of our nursing staff noticed the white powder on the suitcase in what was a routine inspection for psychiatric patients coming to us,” Swisher said. “Shortly after the discovery of the powder, he had itching on his hands and face and his eyes began burning and watering.”
No one else at any of the locations involved suffered any reaction.