USPS Issues New Alert on What You Can't Send Through the Mail
The agency is reminding customers about the consequences of sending prohibited material.
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is naturally a part of our lives, which means we've been taking advantages of its services for decades. But that doesn't necessarily mean we're aware of all the agency's rules. For instance, did you know you can get your delivery service suspended if there's a loose dog in your neighborhood? Or that new USPS guidelines allow employees to throw away packages with counterfeit postage, even if the customer wasn't aware that a sender used fake stamps? Now, the agency is issuing a new warning about another way you could be breaking postal regulations without even realizing it. Read on to find out why the USPS has put out a new alert concerning what you can't put in the mail.
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Several post offices had to be closed recently after mercury discoveries.
Back in May, the USPS was forced to temporarily closed three different post offices in Michigan. On May 15, a worker at the Lake Station Post Office discovered what appeared to be a mercury spill after loading mail on a postal truck in Clare County, Michigan, 9&10 News reported.
According to the local news outlet, emergency officials confirmed that mercury had leaked from a package at the Lake Post Office, prompting the closure of that facility and a neighboring one in Lake George, which was on the same mail route.
The agency also temporarily closed a third Michigan post office in Farwell during the investigation, but all three facilities have since reopened.
But another post office in Henderson, Nevada, was temporarily closed last month for a similar issue, local CBS-affiliate KLAS reported. Postal employees at the Las Vegas Parcel Support Annex in Henderson discovered a small amount of mercury on June 5.
"Out of an abundance of caution the facility was closed, and all mail isolated for evaluation and remediation by Industrial Hygienists and other specialists," USPS spokesperson Rod Spurgeon told KLAS.
Following these incidents, the Postal Service has now issued a new alert to customers about prohibited materials.
The USPS is warning customers about what they can't send through the mail.
Anything containing mercury is not allowed to be mailed, and the USPS is making sure to remind the public about that given recent events. In a June 29 press release, the agency issued a new alert to customers, warning that "metallic mercury and devices containing metallic mercury are always prohibited in the mail stream."
"This includes antique items such as thermometers, barometers, blood pressure monitors and similar devices," the USPS explained.
The only exception is compact fluorescent lamps, which the agency said are allowed for domestic mail but not internationally, because they "contain small amounts of mercury in vapor form."
Mercury can create toxic fumes.
Commonly used in thermometers, barometers, and thermostats, metallic mercury is "the pure form of mercury" and can be toxic to humans when absorbed through the body, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"While this form of mercury is not readily absorbed into the human body by touch or through the digestive tract, it does vaporize at room temperatures and inhalation of these vapors can be harmful to your health," the agency explains.
It's easy for people to be exposed to metallic mercury when devices containing mercury break—and prolonged periods of exposure to even small levels of mercury vapor can cause health problems, like irritability, sleep disturbances, and tremors, the CDC says.
"Exposure to mercury vapor concentrations high enough to produce such serious effects might also cause coughing, chest pains, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, increases in blood pressure or heart rate, skin rashes, and eye irritation," the agency adds, noting that over time, this can cause serious damage to your brain, kidney, and lungs.
You can face criminal penalties if you send mercury through the mail.
In light of the potential health concerns, mailing prohibited materials like metallic mercury can "have serious consequences for everyone involved," the Postal Service explained in its release. As a result, the agency warned customers that they could face major repercussions if they ignore these rules.
"Full responsibility rests with the mailer to comply with all Postal Service and non-Postal Service laws and regulations in the mailing of hazardous material," the USPS said.
This means you could be fined or even arrested for mailing any devices that contain metallic mercury.
"If a person knowingly mails items or materials that are dangerous or injurious to life, health, or property, they may face a civil penalty of at least $250, but not more than $100,000 per violation, the costs of any cleanup associated with each violation, and damages," the USPS warned in its release. "They may also face criminal penalties."
The agency added, "The Postal Service is committed to the safety and security of its employees, its customers, and its transportation networks and will remain vigilant in safeguarding the mail stream against any article that might pose a hazard to health, safety, property, or the environment."