Post offices are using irradiation to protect against anthrax contamination. Postal workers who handle the irradiated mail have reported health problems, their union leaders say.
At least 87 of about 750 workers at the Gaithersburg, Maryland, postal facility have reported problems, says Tammy Thompson, president of the Montgomery County local of the postal workers union. ?The employees are experiencing nosebleeds, runny noses, runny eyes, extreme headaches, nausea,? he says.
Some have been absent from work or have filed workers? compensation claims. The postal union complaints were made after physicians on Capitol Hill said 73 Senate staffers had developed similar symptoms.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Postal Service are investigating the safety of the treated mail. Government investigators say the symptoms are minor and that new precautions have lowered the levels of harmful gases that probably caused by the irradiation.
Mail destined for federal offices in Washington is now sanitized with radiation at postal facilities in Ohio and New Jersey. The mail is then sorted at a postal station in Washington and sent to area postal facilities, including the one in Gaithersburg.
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