Anthrax Testers

Corrections or additions?

This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the

November 7, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights

reserved.

Get Yourselves Tested?

Anthrax scares abound, and not just at the post office.

Latex gloves and face masks have been added to pencils and copy paper

on shopping lists for office supplies. Hazardous materials teams are

being run ragged with calls for investigation of strange white

substances.

Fleet Bank at 390 Nassau Street was closed for a full week, and hazmat

teams have been called to Educational Testing Service on Rosedale

Road and Sovereign Bank’s Nassau Street branch.

Maybe you are among those nervous about whether mail from Trenton

has contaminated your workplace. A cost-effective way to find out

is to wait and see whether anyone develops a rash over the next couple

of months. The proactive way is to get the workplace tested by a

private

company; until a confirmed case of anthrax is reported, the state

will not provide a free test.

"Testing by the private sector has value, to educate people as

to the real potential for anthrax contamination, and to fight

panic,"

says Jorge Berkowitz, a microbiologist at Sadat Associates in

Forrestal

Village. Berkowitz will lead a seminar on anthrax on Tuesday, December

11, at the Princeton Marriott. Call 609-987-2500.

Depending on the facility, it might cost from $250 to $20,000 —

including the lab reports — to hire a private firm to test for

anthrax contamination. For a 10-person firm, it might be $2,000.

Private testing may cost money but at least it will let the business

owner choose the parameters. The testing team could come during the

day, so that employees have a high level of confidence in the safety

of the office. Or it could be done after hours, so as not to create

unneeded anxiety.

Several private companies in this area provide this testing: Sadat

Associates at Forrestal Village and IT Corporation at Horizon Center.

IT has done testing for 25 clients around the country but gained the

most attention for its contract for the U.S. Postal Service in the

northeast United States. DPRA Inc., which has an office at Research

Park, also has a contract with USPS to do testing, but in the Midwest.

Environmental Health Associates Ltd., headquartered in Maryland, has

a small office on Mario Drive in Hamilton.

"Quite frankly, we are discouraging routine testing unless some

type of positive response has happened in the company," says

Berkowitz,

a 1968 graduate of Rutgers. "We don’t want to take advantage of

the panic."

The state health department’s medical guidelines say that anthrax

is not spread from person to person, and that nasal swabs are not

a useful or recommended tool for diagnosis. If you develop a rash

and wonder if it is anthrax, consider that the incubation period is

one to seven days and may range up to 15 days. Cutaneous anthrax

starts

with itching and progresses to a black necrotic (dead-looking) ulcer

in three to seven days. With respect to inhalation anthrax: If you

have a feverish

flu-like illness and a runny nose, don’t panic. See your doctor, but

— so far — no patient with inhalation anthrax has had a runny

nose.

"We are not trying to prey on people’s fears. If a client is

seriously

thinking about getting testing, I am not going to charge for coming

to talk to them," says Berkowitz. "On Friday, I walked away

from a lot of business — a major client that wanted to do blanket

testing. I talked them out of it; we will do some select testing."

Since October 13 in just Mercer County alone, three county hazmat

teams have responded to 367 anthrax alarms: Hamilton had 187, Trenton

had 138, and West Windsor had 42. The usual rate for Trenton is just

200 for an entire year. "Obviously, there was quite an

increase,"

says Robin Williams, county spokesperson. And with the exception of

one positive test at the Civale, Silvestri accounting firm at 1540

Kuser Road, none of these calls resulted in the discovery of anthrax

spores. "But we want to take every step to keep the public

safe,"

says Williams.

Among the most prominent scares were at Fleet and Sovereign bank

branches

on Nassau Street and Educational Testing Service.

On Tuesday, October 30, Fleet Bank employees of the 390 Nassau

Street branch found an unidentified white powdery substance in a

shipment

of new cash. Though it was regarded as a "low risk" situation,

environmental tests were done on Thursday, November 1, the branch

received a precautionary cleaning. Tests came back negative, and the

branch is expected to open by the end of the week. Sovereign Bank

at 188 Nassau Street was visited by a hazmat team on Monday, November

5 but was reopened the next day.

Several suspicious packages came to ETS’s Lower Ferry Road mail

facility on Monday, October 15. Also, the human resources department

in Wood Hall was temporarily closed on Monday, October 29, when

ripping

the tab of a FedEx envelope produced a dust-like substance. But every

letter that has been tested has come back negative, and nine ETS

employees

who visited the Hamilton post office processing area have also tested

negative for anthrax exposure.

Top Of Page
Anthrax Testers

IT Corporation, 200 Horizon Center Boulevard,

Trenton

08691-9999. Gary Gardner, vice president,. 609-584-8900; fax,

609-584-6867.

Testing and cleanup at area post offices is being conducted by IT

Corporation, an environmental cleanup firm with a regional office

on Horizon Boulevard and its warehouse at Windsor Office Park.

IT Corporation recently bought OHM Remediation

Services Corporation and Fluor Daniel GTI Corporation. It has 8,000

employees in 80 offices, and a good percentage are working at sites

away from their home office.

An 11-year veteran of IT, Mike Vollo, is in charge of cleanup at least

nine post office sites across the country, including the jobs at

Carnegie

Center and Bellmawr. He majored in meteorology at Kean University,

Class of 1985, and has a master’s degree in environmental management

from Montclair State.

Sadat Associates Inc., 116 Village Boulevard, Suite

230, CN 5331, Princeton 08543-5331. Marwan M. Sadat, president.

609-987-2500;

fax, 609-243-0120.

Sadat Associates is doing some monitoring — sampling and analysis

— for some of its clients, which range from small firms to Fortune

500 companies. "Just because there is the presence of an anthrax

spore doesn’t mean someone will get ill, because there is so much

dilution," says Jorge Berkowitz. "Ten thousand spores might

make you sick, but one spore doesn’t make you sick."

Keep in mind that 20,000 people die from flu every year, and so far,

four people have died from anthrax. "Make the decision with your

mind, and make it with good advice," says Berkowitz. "Be

rational,

based on the circumstances."

— Barbara Fox

A correction has been made to the electronic version of this story: IT

Corporation is not Idaho Technology Corporation.


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