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North Chicago Health Center Evacuated Over Suspicious Powder

Emergency crews set up a hazardous materials response outside the James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, after someone opened an envelope containing a suspicious red powder on Sept. 24, 2012. (Credit: CBS)

Emergency crews set up a hazardous materials response outside the James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, after someone opened an envelope containing a suspicious red powder on Sept. 24, 2012. (Credit: CBS)

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Updated 09/24/12 – 4:35 p.m.

NORTH CHICAGO, Ill. (CBS) – The James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago was evacuated Monday afternoon, after an employee opened an envelope containing a suspicious powder.

WBBM Newsradio’s Terry Keshner reports officials said the situation has been contained, but emergency crews remained on the scene.

Jonathan Friedman, the center’s public affairs officer, said an employee at Lovell opened an envelope around noon, and was exposed to a red powder.

“The person that was exposed was by themselves. It was because a fan was blowing that this red substance came up and blew – we believe – into their face,” Friedman said.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Terry Keshner Reports


The powder began to irritate the person’s face and skin, and the person called 911.

Authorities were taking every precaution and cordoned off the room where the envelope was opened, as well as a neighboring room. Anyone who might have been exposed to the powder was decontaminated.

“Our main goal right now clearly is to just make sure that we can get everybody out there as safely as possible, and treat these people, just in case,” he said. “We’re hoping … this was just something as simple as possibly cayenne pepper, but right now we’re treating it as if it was possible hazardous material.”

The Lovell Health Center is a medical facility for veterans, active duty military personnel, and their families.

Friedman said investigators are looking into who sent the envelope, and whether there was any harmful intent.