USPS Begins Anthrax-Warning Mailing

The U.S. Postal Service began sending a postcard mailing this week to all 135 million U.S. homes, businesses and other addresses that warns about the threat posed by biological hazards moving through the mail.

The cards — one in English and another in Spanish — should arrive at American homes by next week, officials said. They include a message from postmaster general John E. Potter and information on what to look for if recipients suspect a letter or package may contain a harmful biological agent.

The message from Potter says, “The U.S. Postal Service places the highest priority on the safety of our customers and employees and on the security of the mail. … Please see the other side of this card for information about safety and mail handling. We want you to know we are doing everything possible to make sure the mail is safe, and we need your help. Your security and peace of mind are paramount to us.”

The postcard asks, “What should make me suspect a piece of mail?” and offers the following answers:

* It's unexpected or from someone unknown.

* It's addressed to someone no longer at your address.

* It's handwritten and has no return address or bears one that you can't confirm as legitimate.

* It's lopsided or lumpy in appearance.

* It's sealed with excessive amounts of tape.

* It's marked with restrictive endorsements such as “Personal” or “Confidential.”

* It has excessive postage.

The mailing also asks, “What should I do with a suspicious piece of mail?” and offers these suggestions:

* Don't handle a letter or package that you suspect is contaminated.

* Don't shake, bump or sniff it.

* Put the mail piece in a plastic bag.

* Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

* Notify local law enforcement authorities.

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