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Topic: White powder inside plastic wrapped book.

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Ellie (EllieW) - ,
Subject: White powder inside plastic wrapped book.
Date Posted: 2/9/2009 6:05 PM ET
Member Since: 3/5/2007
Posts: 1,479
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OK I'm freaking out a bit. I received a paperback today and it had white powder inside the plastic wrap. I went to PM the member and the account has been closed or suspended. I am shook up over this.

Date Posted: 2/9/2009 6:19 PM ET
Member Since: 1/13/2009
Posts: 527
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Contact PBS and then your local police department.  One can never be too careful.  PBS should be able to contact the member.



Date Posted: 2/9/2009 6:27 PM ET
Member Since: 1/20/2009
Posts: 2,680
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Geesh, that's creepy. Though, the odds of it being anything dangerous are almost nil. Especially if you don't inhale any of it, and be careful to make sure that none is on the book itself. If it was me, not knowing what the powder was, and not able to contact the person (especially these days), I'd wipe the book down while wearing gloves. You can't be too careful with this kind of thing. It's probably nothing, but a little caution wouldn't hurt. And if you do get sick at all in the next few days or so, make sure you go to the doctor and get checked. It may seem a bit paranoid, but it's far better to be safe than sorry.

I do agree you may want to contact PBS, but be aware that if you contact your local police over it now the odds are pretty good you'll just be brushed off. Best case scenario, you may be able to get them to take a report and a sample, but that sample likely wouldn't be sent for actual testing unless you started showing some sort of symptoms. The cost is too high and the odds too low for most police departments to bother.

Date Posted: 2/9/2009 6:31 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
Posts: 4,058
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Yikes!  It's scary, but try not to freak out.  Doesn't the USPS have a procedure for reporting things like that?  I'm sure they do for government officials, offices & agencies, but for John Q. Public too?  I dunno.  Anyone?  If so, maybe somebody will come & get it from you.

Date Posted: 2/9/2009 6:33 PM ET
Member Since: 8/16/2007
Posts: 15,225
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Have you opened the plastic yet? If not, I would set it aside and contact the site. If they have the account suspended, they may be able to ask the sender about it and let you know. If the account is closed, they will be able to tell you if it was closed on purpose because they were putting something funky in the books before mailing.

My guess is that it is harmless and its something to lie baking powder or carpet freshener to absorb odors. 

If you are really concerned, maybe its worth the wasted credit to just toss that book and reorder a clean copy. 

Last Edited on: 2/9/09 6:33 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Ellie (EllieW) - ,
Date Posted: 2/9/2009 6:36 PM ET
Member Since: 3/5/2007
Posts: 1,479
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I did report it to PBS. I'm still freaking out a bit, but I know it's probably nothing. I'm wondering if it's baking powder or soda or whatever it is you use to freshen books. It did smell a bit musty. I had already opened it and didn't realize about the powder until it was on my hand. So surely I inhaled it. My nose and throat feel funny but I know that's all in my head. LOL I've been debating on who, if anyone, I should call.


Ellie (EllieW) - ,
Date Posted: 2/9/2009 6:38 PM ET
Member Since: 3/5/2007
Posts: 1,479
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Oh believe me I am not keeping the book. I put it and all the wrapping in a plastic bag and put them out in the garage. After this I will always be afraid to open books from here. It's sad because I have had no problems before. Now I feel the fun has been tainted.

Date Posted: 2/9/2009 7:10 PM ET
Member Since: 2/20/2008
Posts: 1,658
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Could be sugar from a powdered doughnut! :)  I only say this because I had one the other day and ended up with white stuff all over my shirt and didn't even notice until DH said something.

Date Posted: 2/9/2009 8:04 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
Posts: 4,058
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I would think baking soda or something baking soda based - like those litter box deodorizers, but I would think that since you can't communicate with the sender about it, you kinda need to report it to someone.  PBS first, sure, but possibly the USPS too, if you're really concerned.

Date Posted: 2/9/2009 8:11 PM ET
Member Since: 1/14/2009
Posts: 30
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This is scary, but I doubt it is the worst case scenario.  I would have kept the book and wrapper in a garage or outside in a plastic bag in case you need to produce it to show the issue.


Best of luck!

Ellie (EllieW) - ,
Date Posted: 2/9/2009 8:31 PM ET
Member Since: 3/5/2007
Posts: 1,479
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PBS answered and said that they closed the account because of multiple accounts by same member. They have contacted member about too many accounts and will ask about powder when they get a response.

I'm still going to worry because that seems to be my main purpose in life. I've always been a worrywort. I do feel a bit better knowing that the member themselves did not cancel the account like they were trying to hide or something.

Date Posted: 2/9/2009 8:31 PM ET
Member Since: 5/6/2008
Posts: 5,569
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In times like this, I would think there isn't a person out there that would be stupid enough to put baking soda, or anything like that in any kind of mail, but apparently I'm wrong.  Report it to the post office and the police.  It's so unlikely you will get sick, but at least everyone necessary will have a heads up.

Ellie (EllieW) - ,
Date Posted: 2/9/2009 10:15 PM ET
Member Since: 3/5/2007
Posts: 1,479
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Well I broke down and called the police. Two officers came and checked it out. They both said it was detergent. They could even smell it. I didn't get close enough to smell it, I guess. LOL

If they are wrong and it was anything to worry about one officer is in trouble. He practically snorted the stuff while checking it out. They were very nice and reassured me that I did the right thing by calling them. You can never be too careful

Now the question still is who in their right minds, in this day and age, would send a package with detergent in it to a stranger. When the policeman opened the book there was powder just all over between the pages. It would freak anyone out. I'd rather get a book smelling like a chimney than worry about unknown substances.  I don't have any RCs at all, let alone any about smells. While I don't like books with smells, such as smoke, I will still read them and not complain.

Do I need to make an RC now stating something like Please do not send me any powder or other unknown substance along with book?

Last Edited on: 2/9/09 10:53 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 2/9/2009 11:55 PM ET
Member Since: 7/24/2008
Posts: 54
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Uck.  I'm sorry you had to go through that. 

You could say "Please don't send any loose items in the package with the book.  No air fresheners etc please."  I've heard that people sometimes wrap a book in dryer sheets to help with the smell, but that sounds to me like just adding even more smell to an already smelly book.  ;)

It was the right call calling the cops, and contacting pbs.  Try not to let this one thoughtless person ruin your experience. 

Last Edited on: 2/10/09 11:30 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 2/10/2009 2:20 AM ET
Member Since: 12/28/2006
Posts: 14,177
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Well, that was certainly unusual.  Hope you are feeling better now. 

My guess would have been baking soda or other odor obsorbant.  There is a police dept. just down the street, beside the fire/paramedics.  If I get one of those "unusual" packages, mine is going directly to the fire dept.

Hugs Ellie!

Date Posted: 2/10/2009 4:07 AM ET
Member Since: 1/1/2009
Posts: 1,924
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You called the police! You rock! Better safe than sorry! I hope you get to hear back about the sender!

Date Posted: 2/10/2009 7:07 AM ET
Member Since: 8/10/2005
Posts: 4,602
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I wonder if the person was trying to deodorize the book because it had an "off" smell or something??


Date Posted: 2/10/2009 7:09 AM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
Posts: 4,058
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Ellie, you said it was in plastic wrap.  Could it have possibly been a grocery bag or something?  Powdered detergent could leak into a gorcery bag & you could reuse it without noticing it was there.  I can't think of a single logical reason for it to be inside of something like glad wrap though.

Ellie (EllieW) - ,
Date Posted: 2/10/2009 7:47 AM ET
Member Since: 3/5/2007
Posts: 1,479
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Good morning all. Thank you for the responses.

The plastic that it was wrapped in is just clear, such as Glad Wrap, only thicker. I'm not sure what it is or where it came from. I've tried to come up with a scenario where the detergent could have gotten in there accidentally, but I can't think of one. It almost certainly was put in on purpose. I just have to assume it was to mask a smell, I guess. I can't see the person's profile since it's been suspended, so I don't know if they've been here long or not.  I guess it's possible that the person wasn't thinking about how it would look and was only worried about how it would smell.

I'm sure I'll order more books in the future, but for now I think I'll concentrate on mount TBR. I'm going to be antsy for awhile when opening packages.

Date Posted: 2/10/2009 1:34 PM ET
Member Since: 1/19/2009
Posts: 229
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Elizabeth, you mentioned people wrapping books in dryer sheets to mask smell - I hope no one here is doing this! Dryer sheets are one of the most toxic things in your household, it's not worth any of the impact it would have on the smell :(


Date Posted: 2/10/2009 2:14 PM ET
Member Since: 1/15/2007
Posts: 1,410
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I hope you marked it RWAP for being soiled.



Date Posted: 2/10/2009 2:20 PM ET
Member Since: 1/30/2009
Posts: 5,696
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The dryer sheet thing is horrifying.  I can deal with smoke and cat hair, but I immediately burst into flames when I come into contact with dryer sheets.

Okay.  Slight exageration.

I mean, what are people thinking? 


Date Posted: 2/10/2009 3:06 PM ET
Member Since: 5/19/2008
Posts: 447
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OK, this is completely OT, but I thought that the link about dryer sheets was interesting.... epecially since they WAY overstate some of the dangers of the chemicals.  I'm a chemist, and here's my take on the chemicals(in bold).

* Benzyl acetate: Linked to pancreatic cancer (maybe if you eat it... this is one of the compounds that makes flowers smell good... naturally)

* Benzyl Alcohol: Upper respiratory tract irritant (you would have to breathe A LOT of it.... your body naturally converts it to benzoic acid, which is commonly used as a food preservative)

* Ethanol: On the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Hazardous Waste list and can cause central nervous system disorders (this is drinking alcohol.  'Nough said)

* Limonene: Known carcinogen (this is what makes lemons and limes smell and taste all lemony and limey)

* A-Terpineol: Can cause respiratory problems, including fatal edema, and central nervous system damage I actually don't know what this one is

* Ethyl Acetate: A narcotic on the EPA's Hazardous Waste list ( ethyl acetate is not a narcotic...it is what tea and coffee is soaked in to make it decaffenated.  Just don't breath it instead of breathing oxygen)

* Camphor: Causes central nervous system disorders (this is menthol... you know, like is in cough drops)

* Chloroform: Neurotoxic, anesthetic and carcinogenic (okay this one is not ideal to breathe, I admit, but they used to use it to put people to sleep for operations... in MUCH larger concentrations)

* Linalool: A narcotic that causes central nervous system disorders (again, this is found in flowers and spices... naturally.  Just don't eat it for breakfast lunch and dinner)

* Pentane: A chemical known to be harmful if inhaled (um, yes, if you breathe it instead of oxygen)

Also, realize that many of these things are very volatile liquids.  Which means, they evaporate into the atmosphere VERY quickly.  Also, realize that when they say "causes central nervous system disorders," that probably means they fed rats several grams of it a DAY and the rats got sick.  

Anyway, I've taken way to long on this, but it was amusing.  I don't use dryer sheets, personally, but I'm sure I inhale much more chemicals every day at the lab anyway.


Date Posted: 2/10/2009 3:13 PM ET
Member Since: 9/11/2008
Posts: 203
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To complete for Robin,

A-Terpineol is a derivative of Limonene.  It is also a scent thing and is found in pine trees.

ETA: Anything can be toxic in high enough doses.  Anyone remember the woman who died a few years ago from drinking too much water for a radio station contest?

Last Edited on: 2/10/09 3:25 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 2/10/2009 3:20 PM ET
Member Since: 5/16/2008
Posts: 2,209
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Thank you, I was about to roll my eyeballs right out of my head at the idea that someone is "horrified" about the dryer sheets. I mean really? Are you HORRIFIED? You've got your hand clutched to your mouth, your eyes bugging out of your head, your heart banging out of your chest, your skin prickling on fire, your breath shortened, your hand on the alarm system at home... because of a dryer sheet? Overreact much? I actually recently ASKED someone to wrap books in a dryer sheet because I have a no smoking RC and she offered me a great deal (THANK YOU!) on some books for my dad.

Willing to bet my bookshelf that dryer sheets are far, far from one of the most toxic things in the house. You're not EATING them. Jeez.

Last Edited on: 2/10/09 3:21 PM ET - Total times edited: 1