No Nerve Gas Found in JFK Airport Scare

Connor Simpson, The Atlantic Wire
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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.

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