No Nerve Gas Found in JFK Airport Scare

Connor Simpson, The Atlantic Wire
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Connor Simpson, The Atlantic Wire
Aug. 12, 2013, 6:02 a.m.

NEW YORK — There was a brief scare Sunday af­ter­noon after two work­ers be­came sick after open­ing a pack­age in a mail­room at New York’s John F. Kennedy In­ter­na­tion­al Air­port. Ini­tial re­ports said the two men were ex­posed to a dan­ger­ous nerve gas, but thank­fully that wasn’t ac­tu­ally the case.

Two Cus­toms agents were forced to seek med­ic­al treat­ment and the air­port’s cent­ral mail fa­cil­ity was locked down by the Port Au­thor­ity of­fi­cials, with an as­sist from the FBI “out of an abund­ance of cau­tion,” Sunday after open­ing a pack­age from China. There was an ini­tial scare after ABC News and the New York Daily News re­por­ted the pack­age that caused two work­ers to get sick ini­tially tested pos­it­ive for a dan­ger­ous po­ten­tial weapon. “The pack­age from China tent­at­ively tested pos­it­ive for VX nerve gas, which can be used as a weapon of mass de­struc­tion, ac­cord­ing to a law en­force­ment source,” the Daily News re­por­ted, while ABC News was much more cau­tious: “Field tests showed an ini­tial find­ing of nerve gas, though au­thor­it­ies be­lieve it’s a low like­li­hood that it’s ac­tu­ally nerve gas,” they said. Ter­ri­fy­ing, right? Every­one’s still on edge be­cause of the ter­ror threat situ­ation, and this played right those fears.

But after the FBI per­formed more tests on the pack­age, ten­sion sub­sided when it was re­vealed there was no nerve gas at all. “There were ini­tial re­ports that the pack­age con­tained nerve gas, but of­fi­cials have said it’s un­likely that the sub­stance is the chem­ic­al weapon,” CBS New York re­ports. It turns out what made the two men sick was ac­tu­ally or­gan­o­phos­phate, an in­gredi­ent in soda pop. “Phos­phor­ic acid is a col­or­less li­quid with a syr­upy con­sist­ency used as an acid­i­fy­ing agent to give colas their fla­vor,” CNN ex­plains. News­day re­ports Port Au­thor­ity of­fi­cials dropped the pack­age in­to a 55 gal­lon drum, just to be safe.

The two men are fine and re­ceiv­ing treat­ment at Frank­lin Gen­er­al Hos­pit­al. The oth­er mail area em­ploy­ees are still be­ing screened by the au­thor­it­ies to make sure they wer­en’t in­fec­ted, too. Soda pop is still de­li­cious, nerve gas is still scary, and everything is al­right with the world. And the good news: the scare didn’t delay any flights.

Re­prin­ted with per­mis­sion from the At­lantic Wire. The ori­gin­al story can be found here.

What We're Following See More »
Report: U.S. Ill-Equipped to Detect Dirty Bomb
4 hours ago

A DHS report "found gaping holes in domestic nuclear detection and defense capabilities and massive failures during covert testing." A team put in place to assess our readiness capabilities found significant issues in detecting dangerous radioactive and nuclear materials, failing to do so in 30 percent of covert tests conducted over the course of the year. In far too many cases, the person operating the detection device had no idea how to use it. And when the operator did get a hit, he or she relayed sensitive information over unsecured open radio channels."

White House to Give McMaster Carte Blanche
6 hours ago
Trump To Rescind Trans Protections
7 hours ago

Donald Trump is planning to reverse an Obama-era order requiring that schools allow students to use the bathroom that coincides with their gender identity. Trump "has green-lighted the plan for the Justice Department and Education Department to send a “Dear Colleague” letter to schools rescinding the guidance." A case is going before the Supreme Court on March 28 in which Gavin Grimm, a transgender high school student, is suing his high school for forbidding him to use the men's room.

Russia Compiling Dossier on Trump’s Mind
8 hours ago

Retired Russian diplomats and members of Vladimir Putin's staff are compiling a dossier "on Donald Trump's psychological makeup" for the Russian leader. "Among its preliminary conclusions is that the new American leader is a risk-taker who can be naïve, according to a senior Kremlin adviser."

Trump Addresses Threats On Jewish Community Centers
10 hours ago

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.