The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 25, Number 6
Apr 2002


Radiation of Mail; Delays in Delivery

The March AIC News reports that "the delivery of first-class mail to IMLS (the Institute of Museum and Library Services) has been delayed since mid-October and delays are expected to continue for the foreseeable future." The IMLS urges people to consider using alternatives, such as e-mail, fax, or commercial delivery services, and contact the Institute to find out if the mail has arrived. Grant applicants are reminded that their applications cannot be sent by e-mail or fax.

Not long ago, the Library of Congress reportedly received a piece of mail that had been mailed last September.

The U.S. Postal Service has a newsletter like everyone else, called Memo to Mailers. In the issue received February 26 at Abbey Publications, there was a column on the front page headed "Mail Irradiation Limited." It said that the only mail currently being irradiated is mail going to specific government offices in ZIP Codes 202, 203, 203, and 205. [These are for DC, Connecticut, Manitoba and Alabama. No explanation is offered for why these widely scattered places were chosen.]

The USPS is leasing irradiation facilities in Ohio and New Jersey to decontaminate mail and has issued contracts for purchase of irradiation equipment. The article explains the process:

Current irradiation is done with electron beam technology. The process was tested and found effective by an interagency team of experts. The group was organized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and included the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Irradiated mail is sterile and poses no hazard.... Irradiation can adversely affect some mailable products, such as biological samples, diagnostic kits, photographic film, food, and eyeglasses and contact lenses. Electronic devices would likely be rendered inoperable and drugs and medicines also can be affected.

The column states at the end that the Post Office will continue to irradiate mail, and gives no hint when the practice will end.

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