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Recently, six foreign missions in New York City received letters containing white powder.

Hoax or "white powder" incidents are more common since the 2001 anthrax attacks.
  • The NYPD’s Emergency Services Unit (ESU) regularly responds to white powder hoax letters in New York City.

The Postal Service uses a Biohazard Detection System in mail distribution and processing facilities which alerts if anthrax is detected in the mail. Postal service mail travels through this system, but hand-delivered, couriered, and mail delivered by private shipping companies do not.

Though most incidents are hoaxes, every incident should be treated as if it is real until determined otherwise by the proper authorities.  

  • Leave the mail or package where it was found. Do not disturb. Do not try to clean the substance.
  • Immediately call 911
  • Clear the immediate area of all persons and keep others away.
  • Cordon off the immediate area.
  • Instruct people in the immediate area to wash hands and other ex-posed skin with soap and water.
  • Isolate exposed persons to a desig-nated area away from the substance and await further instruction.
  • List the names of the persons in the immediate area of the mail or pack-age.
  • Shut down all HVAC (heating, venti-lation, air conditioning) systems.
  • Document the location of mail or package. 


  •  Appearance
  • Powdery substance on the package or felt inside the package
  • Discoloration, stains, or odor 
  • No return address
  • Restrictive markings
  • Rigid or bulky
  • Strange odor
  • Lopsided or uneven
  • Excessive tape or string
  • Misspelled words
  • Addressed to title only
  • Incorrect title
  • Badly typed or written
  • Possibly mailed from a foreign country
  • Excessive postage