False anthrax scare at Stuller Inc.

A clean bill of health has been given to 10 employees of Stuller Inc., Lafayette, La., one of the world’s largest jewelry manufacturers, following a false anthrax scare on Monday, Oct. 16. Also false is a rumor that Stuller shipments were infected, leading some customers to refuse delivery.

Stuller, known for its prompt “just in time” delivery of its products has more than 40,000 retail jewelry customers, primarily in North America. It has a total of 13 locations in the United States and around the world, including its Lafayette headquarters (with 1,500 people), overseas sales offices and a factory in Mexico.

The incident at its Lafayette headquarters occurred at 1 p.m. Monday when a female employee saw some white powdery material “fly off” some toilet paper in a company bathroom. She became agitated, and informed her supervisor, says Stuller spokesman Steven MacDiarmid. The supervisor contacted Stuller’s safety officer, who notified the local police, fire department and state police, who came with their hazardous materials (hazmat) squads.

They put 10 people who had been in the bathroom through decontamination procedures and took them to a Lafayette hospital. There, samples were taken with swabs and sent to a state lab for evaluation. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals later reported that complete tests found no evidence of anthrax at all. The toilet paper manufacturer also told officials at Stuller that it is common for paper residue to build up at the end of toilet paper rolls.

As added precaution, the bathroom and hallway were decontaminated and washed down with a bleach solution.

Stuller’s operations and production weren’t affected in anyway. The building wasn’t shut down nor were any employees evacuated.

Stuller, whose security measure already prevent anyone but company employees and officials from entering its Lafayette headquarters and plant, had already tightened its mailroom procedures in recent weeks, segregating any questionable packages or mail, says MacDiarmid.

Even so, there is a false rumor in the industry since Monday that Stuller shipments were allegedly inflected with anthrax. Stuller has given a statement denying that for use by employees with contact with the industry or public (such as phone operators dealing with customers), says MacDiarmid.

The statement reads:

“Stuller has learned of a rumor that is circulating in the industry, claiming that our distribution operations have been infected with anthrax. This is not true. There was a false alarm in an area of our manufacturing operations on Monday, October 15-as there have been in many other companies-but test results have shown that there is no danger to our associates, or our customers.

A brief recap of what actually occurred will illustrate how distressed ordinary people have become over the constant media attention focused on this issue. One of Stuller’s female associates, while in a restroom, noticed a white powdery substance being thrown into the air while removing toilet tissue from a roll. She became alarmed, and notified our company safety officer. Stuller’s safety officer contacted local and state authorities that responded with their hazardous materials (HAZ MAT) squads. The individuals exposed to the powder and the affected restroom areas were decontaminated and samples were sent for testing. Test results have been negative, and the toilet tissue manufacturer has informed Stuller that it is common for tissue paper residue in the form of a powder to become trapped in the rolls at the end of a production run.”