White substance found in UN building tests negative for anthrax

White substance found in UN building tests negative for anthrax

A white substance found at United Nations Headquarters in New York has tested negative for anthrax, but not before some staff members were put on antibiotics as a precautionary measure, a UN spokesman reported today.

The substance was discovered falling from the ceiling on 18 October in the UN Secretariat building. "In response, initial culture tests were taken of the area, which were negative for anthrax bacteria," said spokesman Fred Eckhard. "However, because some other test results were inconclusive, fresh samples were taken last Sunday night and turned over for testing to the US authorities."

While detailed testing of those samples later confirmed that they were negative, precautionary measures had already been taken. "The area was sealed and some members who had been in close proximity of the incident were started on antibiotics, on the recommendation of the New York City Department of Health," Mr. Eckhard said.

Asked about the substance, the spokesman noted that the UN building is more than 50 years old "so there's stuff accumulating up there for a long time - most of it is black, which is good New York City soot."