Iowa State Daily Newsroom Evacuated Due to Fears Poison was in Package Sent to Paper

The drama in The Iowa State Daily newsroom at Iowa State University began Wednesday afternoon with a “white substance” on a staffer’s hands. Concerns abounded that the substance was ricin, the powdery poison that made news fairly recently when it was mailed to the offices of high-ranking U.S. politicos.

These concerns quickly escalated to a rare action within collegemediatopia: a full-scale newsroom evacuation. They also prompted the involvement of “Iowa State campus police, Ames and Des Moines fire departments, Des Moines Hazardous Material Services, and the FBI.” At one point, individuals donning hazardous material suits even entered the newsroom.


The culprit behind all this craziness: a dude from Washington state with a “history of attempting to produce ricin.” As the ISD and others have reported, he sent the paper “a package contain[ing] two letters and a demo CD.” These packages were apparently sent to random orgs, outlets, and individuals nationwide, without a confirmed rhyme or reason (so far).

Fortunately, the initial fear that ricin had been included in the package proved unfounded. Instead, authorities determined the “white substance” was “nothing but photo paper residue.”

An Iowa State’s campus police captain: “We were able to quickly determine there was no powder. There was no scare. What they were seeing in there was more of a photo type paper. When the individual folded it up to put it in the envelope, it cracked that surface. So when they unfolded it, those pieces were flaking off and that’s what they saw.”

Even so, after they left the newsroom, all ISD staffers who’d been inside were told to wash their hands.

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