Chemical from delivered packages sickens 16 near Philadelphia

FIRST REPORT: “Possible” radioactive material delivered to 2 hospital office buildings in Philadelphia24 August 2007: It was first reported as a “possible radioactive material” in packages delivered to 2 medical buildings and a third office building near Philadelphia yesterday. Now, it is an “unknown chemical substance” that sickened 16 people at 3 separate locations.

Initial Report: Five people have been quarantined and HazMat teams, police, fire and FBI officials have all responded to St. Lukes Hospital in Fountain Hill, Lehigh County, outside of Philadelphia, PA after two packages delivered to the hospital yielded possible radioactive material.

One package was delivered via FedEx to the Estes Building, which is assigned to medical specialists and administrative offices on the hospital campus. The building was evacuated.

A second package was later discovered in the Doctors Pavilion, prompting the evacuation of that building as well. The five people in quarantine were inside the Estes building, each complaining of respiratory problems and other ailments.

UPDATE 25 August 2007: FBI: “not terrorism, not a threat.”

Three packages, all delivered separately to three different locations – two medical office buildings at St. Luke’s Hospital in Fountain Hill, (Lehigh County), Pennsylvania and a warehouse type building containing three businesses in nearby Bethlehem were reportedly contaminated with a foul-smelling chemical that authorities still have not identified. That substance sickened a total of 16 people at three locations. All victims of the oily type substance were treated for respiratory symptoms and ultimately released. The three packages were all delivered by FedEx and each originated at their Hanover Township facility, located about 15 miles from St. Luke’s Hospital during the course of the day, yesterday. That is as much as is being made public by authorities - except that the incident has no nexus to terrorism.

The series of incidents began at about noon yesterday, when a parcel was delivered to the third floor of the Estes building, a three-story building across from St. Luke’s Hospital. Five employees were sickened by fumes and were taken to the emergency room. Shortly before 4:00 p.m., a box delivered to the Doctors Pavillion at the St. Luke’s complex, also had a foul odor and caused several people there to seek medical treatment. HazMat teams, first responders and ultimately the FBI evacuated both buildings A separate office in a building 15 miles from the first incident also received a package containing the same or similar foul-smelling chemical substance, sending office workers for medical treatment for respiratory problems as well.

Initial reports yesterday afternoon suggested that the “chemical” was radioactive in nature. Currently, authorities are saying they have no idea what the substance is, but to seek medical treatment if you were exposed to the chemical and have symptoms of respiratory distress. The FBI, the agency reportedly in charge of the investigation, publicly stated they believe the incident to be an accidental contamination of some type.

The Northeast Intelligence Network will continue to monitor this situation.