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RE: [AV Media Matters] New Test Results
As usual, Jerry Hartke of Media Sciences, Inc. has been doing his
homework, and we appreciate his willingness to share the benefits of it
us. I have no doubt that the results of his tests were as he reported
to be. Of course, in an ideal world we would not have to deal with
variables. But his controlled test (and we do not know what prompted the
USPS or the equipment manufacturer to specify the particular intensity
setting for the sinle test) may not have been representative of all the
irradiation equipments used, nor of the intensity settings used since
treatment began by their various operators, nor does it show whether an
accumulative effect is possible when mail passes through such a system
than once. In addition, there may be others, not affiliated with the
who are using such equipment to clean mail, and we don't know under
conditions they work, or whether their effort is applied instead of or
addition to the USPS treatment. Therefore, to state that this equipment
safe, because recent tests show that it was safe, may not be
of all the risks that media may encounter everywhere and at any time
irradiation is or has been applied, and after treatment by any of the
systems used for this purpose. Lacking a statement from the USPS that
have decided to use only one uniform intensity setting for all their
irradiation systems used everywhere, and for anyone else using such
we should not blindly trust one set of tests that indicate safe settings
were used for those tests. We did not get the whole story yet, the USPS
not confirm that this setting will be used everywhere, and that only
equipment will be used. They have not taken ownership of other 'media
toaster' settings, nor have they committed themselves never to use them
We had a discussion on this subject on the AMIA Listserv in the middle
March this year. A valuable reference I noted was:
http://www.si.edu/scmre/mail_irradiation.html We concluded from the
available evidence that we should be very cautious if media (and many
vulnerable materials) has to pass through US mail irradiation systems
label it with a warning against such irradiation, or to run no risk at
not to use the USPS for such enclosures and send those by courier
when assured that they will not irradiate such mail.
The recent tests Jerry did have the benefit of being done after the USPS
gained valuable experience, and of course do not prove that their
irradiation has been safe from the beginning, which it evidently was
Nor does it demonstrate that all operators have agreed to use the 'safe'
setting and only the equipment which was used for Jerry's test. Peter
Brothers was not dreaming, his information was based on real experiences
reported by real people. We had a recent posting from Charles Repca who
reported on this listserv that he had: "received a number of
CD here in our office that had been run through a sterilization process.
discs heavily discolored and warped beyond recognition."
On March 22, 2002, Barbara Jeanne Humphrys of the Library of Congress
me an email after we discussed the issue on the AMIA-L, with a March 15
photograph entitled "CD toast", she wrote: "Thanks for your interesting
post. I thought you might be interested in seeing the effects of
on a CD sent to the Library of Congress for copyright registration. On
4, LC began to distribute mail it had been receiving, irradiating, and
sorting since October 17. The attached image was published last week in
employee newsletter, The Gazette (March 15, 2002)". This is the caption
accompanying the image: "This CD submitted to the Copyright Office for
copyright registration did not survive irradiation treatment of library
in November. Subjected to high heat, the plastic case melted and fused
the disc. Copyright employees are trying to salvage materials deposited
copyright applications, but some like this one will have to be replaced.
Photo by Gail Fineberg".
Barbara made a note: "I believe that the radiation level has been
since then. So far, only USPS mail and "flats" are undergoing this
I would like to thank Jerry for this service to this community to
real test data for a change when the rest of the stakeholders remain in
dark. And to Peter Brothers for his spirit of wanting to help avoid
disastrous loss of audio-visual productions by warning us of risks. I
that this perspective will also be helpful in the interpretation of
test results and in determining the applicability of their outcome.
Ed H. Zwaneveld,
Technological Research and Development,
National Film Board of Canada
May 6, 2002
From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Saturday, May 04, 2002 11:38 AM
To: AV Media Matters
Subject: Re: [AV Media Matters] New Test Results
Results we reported for CD discs were based on tests conducted in close
coordination with the USPS and with one of the companies that irradiate
mail under contract to the USPS. Electron beam energy and dose were
comparable to those now in use for that purpose.
Information from Mr. Brothers is somewhat confusing. It seems to be
second-hand and third-hand information, and is not confirmed by the
controlled experiments we just reported. Media Sciences is not aware of
any irradiation of mail that melts package contents, including CD discs
and jewel cases? When did this irradiation occur? Was it U.S. mail or
did it go through a different postal system?
Peter Brothers wrote:
> Tape, as well as discs are being damaged by the irradiation now being
> on mail.
> After giving a presentation at the National Archives in DC on disaster
> recovery of magnetic tapes, I was approached by a government employee
> asked if irradiation is likely to damage magnetic tape. I mentally
> the studies that have been done by various agencies and industries
> years and answered, as most experts would, "No, irradiation is not
> likely to
> seriously damage magnetic tape". And, unless someone does something
> most experts wouldn't consider because it is obviously ridiculous, the
> answer was correct.
> Of course, this government agency had recently received a number of
> recordings through the mail that had been melted.
> It was once safe to take magnetic media through airport security.
> now added magnetic wands that can erase media. Irradiation has been
> used in
> the past to kill fungus on media. They now irradiate in such a way
> such intensities that it melts the media. Another method rumored to
> under consideration for treating media, on site, that is suspected of
> anthrax contamination is a 50% chlorine solution. I'm no
> microbiologist, so
> I can't fairly evaluate if this would kill the spores. I do know of a
> number of media, however, that don't stand a chance of surviving the
> So, yes, there are a number of instances where media has actually been
> melted by the irradiation now being used on letters and envelopes.
> Strangely enough, unless they have changed the policy recently, they
> only irradiating envelopes- not boxes. Go figure. I guess they
> anthrax spores don't like boxes. Until they change the policy, you
> want to consider shipping all your media in boxes. It may be more
> for single units but it's a real pain trying to play back melted tapes
> Peter Brothers
> SPECS BROS., LLC
> Tape and Disc Disaster Recovery
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Charles Repka [mailto:Charles.P.Repka@abc.com]
> Sent: Friday, May 03, 2002 8:46 AM
> To: AV Media Matters
> Subject: RE: [AV Media Matters] New Test Results
> But the heat generated by other sterilization processes will
> the discs. We have received a number of (promotional) CD here in our
> that had been run through a sterilization process. The discs heavily
> discolored and warped beyond recognition.
> Charles Repka
> > Tests conducted by Media Sciences in early 2002 on CD-ROM discs,
> > recorded CD-R discs, and unrecorded CD-R discs indicate that
> > beam irradiation of the type used to sterilize U.S. mail does
> > not impair
> > media interchange. See http://www.mscience.com/faq29.html.
> > Regards,
> > J. Hartke
> > Media Sciences, Inc.
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