Anthrax contamination holds up PSAT answer sheets for 75,000 students nationwide

Saturday, December 8th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) _ The anthrax scare has held up the PSAT answer sheets of about 75,000 students nationwide, but officials with the College Board said the delay won't affect students' chances at a scholarship.

The answer sheets have been quarantined along with anthrax-tainted mail, the College Board said Friday.

The sheets come from about 1,200 of the 23,000 U.S. high schools where juniors and sophomores took the preliminary SAT, which serves as a qualifier for National Merit Scholarship competition.

``We certainly are willing to try to make whatever accommodations we need to so all the students can participate,'' said Elaine Detweiler, spokeswoman for National Merit Scholarship Corp.

Most of the missing answer sheets are believed to be among 800,000 pieces of mail detained at the mail processing center in Hamilton N.J., after officials found anthrax-contaminated letters had passed through there.

Mail from another postal facility, Washington D.C.'s shuttered Brentwood facility, where two workers died from inhaled anthrax, ran into a different problem this week _ two batches caught fire during the decontamination process, apparently because some material overheated.

Postal Service officials declined to specify what materials might have overheated, saying they didn't want to give information to potential saboteurs.

Meanwhile, in Connecticut, where an elderly woman died of inhaled anthrax, Gov. John Rowland said he supported a decision by federal authorities not to contact the 241 homes and businesses in his state found to have received mail that crossed paths with two anthrax-tainted letters.

``If it had some health effect on someone, we would have already seen those effects,'' said Rowland spokesman Dean Pagani. ``We're talking about one or two spores of anthrax that may or may not have gotten on any of those letters. You could be alarming people unnecessarily.''

The Connecticut address list was compiled by tracking mail sent through a New Jersey distribution center on Oct. 9 at the same time as anthrax-tainted letters sent to Sens. Patrick Leahy and Tom Daschle.

Testing is under way on the Leahy letter, which was recovered unopened three weeks ago from a trash bag of quarantined mail. The letter inside was found to be identical to the letter sent to Daschle.