Corrections or additions?
This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the
November 7, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights
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
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
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
says Jorge Berkowitz, a microbiologist at Sadat Associates in
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
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
a 1968 graduate of Rutgers. "We don’t want to take advantage of
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
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
"We are not trying to prey on people’s fears. If a client is
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
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
Among the most prominent scares were at Fleet and Sovereign bank
on Nassau Street and Educational Testing Service.
Street branch found an unidentified white powdery substance in a
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.
facility on Monday, October 15. Also, the human resources department
in Wood Hall was temporarily closed on Monday, October 29, when
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
who visited the Hamilton post office processing area have also tested
negative for anthrax exposure.
08691-9999. Gary Gardner, vice president,. 609-584-8900; fax,
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
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.
230, CN 5331, Princeton 08543-5331. Marwan M. Sadat, president.
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
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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