Common sense needed during anthrax scare

Powdered donuts -- friend or foe?

As anthrax spreads across the East Coast and further into the Midwest, citizens of Ball State, the Muncie community and every city in every state are attempting to help hunt down the white powder. One county in Michigan has gone as far as to ban powdered donuts from government buildings.

According to Muncie Police Sgt. Bruce Qualls, people have to use common sense if they are going to watch out for anthrax.

"(People) are not going at this with a clear head," Qualls said.

In fact, Qualls said, Muncie residents have a better chance of being struck by lightning while standing in the middle of the street than they do being infected with anthrax.

Despite this, the Muncie Police Department has received complaints of white powder in mailboxes and one case of white powder -- most likely sugar -- poured in front of the doors at Washington Carver Elementary School. Qualls said this was probably a prank.

The University Police Department has handled at least five different calls of a white powder suspected to be anthrax. Three of these have been in the Art and Journalism Building; one was in Bracken Library, and one was in the Administration Building.

Both Qualls and University Police Sgt. Steve Hiatt have pointed out that many concerns have come from people reporting a white powder on printed materials. Often this turns out to be printer's talc, or anti-offset powder.

According to Ken Johnson, director of Printing Services, anti-offset powder is used in the printing process to keep sheets from sticking together because of wet ink. It does this by forming a thin layer between the two sheets.

"It's just keeping those two sheets from coming into complete contact," Johnson said. "That powder actually holds the sheet up a little bit."

Johnson said the powder is more likely to be seen on larger printing jobs and on jobs that have been sitting around for a long period of time.

Despite concerns, Printing Services plans on continuing to use the powder. According to a material safety data sheet provided by Printing Services, no toxic chemicals are present in the powder, and health concerns exist only if the dust were exposed to a person's eyes or if it began to irritate the nose or throat from inhalation. If it does cause concern, however, Printing Services will distribute informational packets, Johnson said.


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