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Thursday, 1 November, 2001, 15:30 GMT
'Anthrax detector' on sale
Spray detector
The spray reveals the contents of any letter
A Midlands firm claims it has produced a spray that will detect anthrax sent in the post.

The solvent makes paper envelopes transparent without damaging the contents or the packaging.

Future Developments, based in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, claim the aerosol will enable the public and postal workers to see powder or wires in any letter.

It hopes the product will become a major weapon in combating the anthrax threat.

See-through affect

Paul Williams, a director of the firm, said the spray was very simple.

"This isn't rocket science," he said.

Chemicals being mixed to make the spray
The chemicals used in the spray are 'basic'

"If you spray paper with water it becomes see-through but the contents fall to bits.

"We've developed a spray that doesn't damage the contents and makes the envelope see-through for a couple of minutes, while the spray dries.

The spray will not work on thicker packaging like Jiffy bags, he said.

"This is a potential cure to the anthrax scares and the way things are going at the moment it might be needed," he said.

Postal services throughout the country have been severely disrupted by numerous anthrax scares in mail sorting offices.

Four people have died from anthrax in the United States, including two postal workers in Washington, and more than 13,000 postal workers there are taking anti-biotics to protect themselves.

Peace of mind

Mr Williams said the spray could be used by people at home, who want to check their post, or by mail workers.

"It's like having a burglar alarm in the house, it will give peace of mind," he said.

"If you get something in the post that makes you anxious, then you're faced with taking a chance and opening it or calling the police so they have to come out and deal with it.

"With this you can just spray the envelope and see what's inside it."

He said the spray, which was launched on Monday, had already attracted widespread interest from potential customers.

See also:

01 Nov 01 | Americas
Anthrax kills fourth American
31 Oct 01 | Americas
Anthrax: Charting the US cases
29 Oct 01 | Sci/Tech
Mail sterilisation: The options
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