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Concerns About Opening Mail Have Many On Edge

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Concerns about opening letters and packages have all of us a bit on edge. Anthrax look-alikes certainly do not help the situation. Some magazines and fliers are coated in a powder to prevent sticking, a powder that is completely harmless.

Sept. 11 is a day Al and Sue Hill will never forget.

"It was our 30th wedding anniversary, so we'll always remember that happening," Sue Hill said.

Now they have one more reason to remember. The couple owns a printing company in Raleigh. They use a harmless product called "spray powder" made from food starch to keep their pages from sticking together.

"We're telling all our customers that we use off-set printing powder, and not to be alarmed," Al Hill said.

But in today's world, people are concerned that white powder, especially when it arrives on something in the mail, could be anthrax. Haz-mat teams have been called to several false alarms lately.

Packaging powder was the source of a false anthrax scare at a Cary company last week. While you can never be too careful, the Hills want people to be aware that powder is used in printing everything from business cards to magazines.

"If they get a magazine at home and they feel a little bit on the page, it's OK. It's nothing that's going to harm them," Sue Hill said.

From now on, the Hills plan to include a letter with their orders explaining exactly what the powder is so that their customers will not be alarmed.

Still, police do not want to discourage people with valid concerns. They stress if you do feel like you have come in contact with anthrax, you should call 911. Most importantly, do not leave your location or remove the substance from the area.


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