Arlington Heights police and firefighter/paramedics responded about 7:43 AM Wednesday to a report of a suspicious powder discovered at the Daily Herald offices building, 155 East Algonquin Road Arlington Heights, IL. Police and firefighter/paramedics received a report that an unknown substance was discovered in an envelope. Later it was learned that an unknown powder or dust substance was found in seven white envelopes addressed to different employees, and that the unknown material and envelopes were discovered in the fourth floor mail room at about 7:00 a.m. The envelopes, which were located inside a bin, had been brought to the Daily Herald from a local post office.
Firefighters initially classified this type of incident as a HazMat Level I, and were on the scene investigating the substance by 7:50 a.m. The incident response was elevated to a HazMat Level II by about 8:35 a.m. as a precaution because of the size of the office and the number of people potentially affected.
There was early information that the offices would be evacuated at about 9:00 AM. A routine decontamination area was also setup. Employees were given instructions by firefighters at the scene to evacuate — avoiding the area where the powder was discovered, and expediting their exit without obstruction. Employees either stood by in the parking lot and functioned as reporters covering the incident, moved to different Daily Herald offices in the suburbs to continue their work, or arrived at different offices from their homes.
After investigation of the powdery substance, certain hazardous chemicals, such as cyanide were ruled out. Although cyanide is immediately fatal if ingested, it can also cause violent illness by mere contact with fingers or skin. At least one employee was evaluated by Arlington Heights Fire Department paramedics in an ambulance. Arlington Heights Fire Department Deputy Chief Pete Ahlman said the employee did not have any symptoms. The U.S. Post Office inspector, who was on the scene and was working in conjunction with the FBI, did not believe the material was hazardous.
Fire department HazMat technicians screened the substance, which was described as looking like glitter. The substance had a neutral pH, and did not appear to contain any protein (biological component such as Anthrax).
The substance will undergo further testing, but officials did not know when the testing would be completed.
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