Authorities have confirmed that Facebook facilities and employees are negative from the deadly poison sarin after alarms were raised that the fatal chemical may have been sent to the company’s mailing services, Monday.
Local authorities confirmed that there was a possible sarin attack at the company’s mailing facility in Menlo Park at the San Francisco Bay Area. At least two people in the vicinity were said to have been exposed to it, local media initially reported.
“#BREAKING: At least two employees may have been possibly exposed to sarin after coming in contact with the chemical at a Facebook mailing facility, Menlo Park fire officials say,” NBC Bay Are reported on its Twitter account after the news of the sarin attack broke out.
However, after further investigation, the fire department confirmed that no employees were exposed to the hazardous chemical.
“A package delivered to one of our mailrooms was deemed suspicious,” Facebook spokesman Anthony Harrison told the outlet.
“Authorities have not yet identified the substance found … The safety of our employees is our top priority, and we will share additional information when it is available.”
Facebook says it evacuated four buildings after the suspected Sarin was discovered, and “are conducting a thorough investigation in coordination with local authorities. As of now, three of the evacuated buildings have been cleared for repopulation. The safety of our employees is our top priority, and we will share additional information when it is available.”
After multiple agencies crafted a course of action, a hazmat team around 6 p.m. Monday entered the building where the package was, cleared all of the rooms and eventually tested the package, the fire district said. The team exited at about 6:45 p.m. and was decontaminated.
Authorities made a second sweep, this time with “more sophisticated equipment,” and eventually found the location of the suspicious package. Tests for sarin and other dangerous substances in the box later turned out negative, the authorities confirmed.
The FBI, who was also later called during the incident, similarly said and confirmed that no sarin was detected in the suspected package.
The FBI says in a statement Tuesday the agency and its law enforcement partners “thoroughly tested the items in question and determined them to be non-hazardous.”
Sarin, a toxin initially developed in 1938 in Germany as a pesticide, is an extremely toxic synthetic organophosphorus compound. A colorless, odorless liquid, it is used as a chemical weapon due to its extreme potency as a nerve agent. Exposure is lethal even at deficient concentrations, where death can occur within one to ten minutes after direct inhalation of a lethal dose, due to suffocation from lung muscle paralysis unless antidotes are quickly administered. People who absorb a non-lethal dose, but do not receive immediate medical treatment, may suffer permanent neurological damage.
The chemical is also considered as a weapon of mass destruction, and since the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, production and distribution of sarin have been outlawed.
According to Menlo Park Fire District chief Harold Schapelhouman, Facebook has a safety mechanism against dangerous substances, as mails to come into the company are checked via a machine that can detect poison and other hazardous materials. The company immediately recognized the possibility of a sarin attack against Facebook through the said machine.
Sarin attacks were still used as a war weapon by outlaws until today, unfortunately. In 2017, during the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack, sarin gas was allegedly released in rebel-held Idlib Province in Syria by the Syrian Air Force during an airstrike.
Similarly, during the wake of the Douma chemical attack in 2018, victims reported having symptoms consistent with exposure to sarin and other agents. On 6 July 2018, the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) of the OPCW published their interim report. The report stated that “The results show that no organophosphorus (sarin) nerve agents or their degradation products were detected in the environmental samples or the plasma samples taken from alleged casualties.”
The Facebook sarin scare is the first recorded suspicion of the use of sarin in warfare and terrorism in 2019.