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Tests show powder sent to UC Irvine professors is harmless [Updated]

January 5, 2010 |  8:06 am

[Updated at 10:20 a.m.: UC Irvine spokesman Tom Vasich said this morning a third threatening letter with white powder and the words “black death” — identical to the two received by professors Monday — has been found on the campus. More details to come.]

A white powder enclosed in threatening letters sent to two UC Irvine professors was found to be harmless, officials said today.

Neither of the recipients -- a sociology professor and an engineering professor -- were harmed by the substance in the letters received Monday that contained the words "black death," campus officials said.

FBI field tests came up negative for biologically hazardous materials.

The results were confirmed by the Orange County Department of Public Health, which also tested the powder, said UCI spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon. The tests did not identify what the substance was but showed that it contained no toxic material.

As a precaution Monday, school officials evacuated the two buildings where the letters were opened and issued an alert warning people on campus to closely examine letters or packages that contain outdated information, are oddly shaped, marked "personal" or "confidential" and do not have return addresses on them.

"The probability of your receiving similar letters or parcels is remote," the alert read. "However in light of these incidents, we advise caution when examining incoming mail."

UC Irvine police are investigating who sent the letters and why the two professors were targeted. The FBI will conduct more tests that could identify the powder.

-- Tony Barboza

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