A Facebook mail processing warehouse near company headquarters was evacuated on Monday as officials work to determine what caused mail to test positive for the nerve agent sarin. Facebook spokesman Anthony Harrison said four buildings were evacuated and that three have been cleared for people to come back in. "Authorities have not yet identified the substance found,” Harrison wrote. The suspicious package was delivered around 11 am to one of the company’s mail rooms, he said.
The federal Centres for Disease Control and Prevention says sarin is a chemical warfare agent that is a clear, colourless, odourless and tasteless liquid. It can evaporate into the environment, prompting symptoms within seconds.
A drop of sarin on skin can cause sweating and muscle twitching, and exposure to large doses can result in paralysis and respiratory failure leading to death.
Menlo Park Fire Marshal Jon Johnston said Monday that incoming mail undergoing routine processing by machine tested positive for sarin, but that there are no reports of injuries at the Silicon Valley site. “Right now, we don’t have anybody that has any symptoms,” he said. “We’re just doing verification.”
“We evacuated four buildings and are conducting a thorough investigation in coordination with local authorities,” Anthony Harrison, a Facebook spokesperson told The Verge. “As of now, three 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.”
The FBI is assisting in the investigation, as is common in incidents such as this one.
Facebook routinely tests packages sent through its mailing facility for dangerous chemicals and substances, according to Business Insider. The mailbag that set off alarms is currently under quarantine. No one yet knows if the substance actually is sarin.
At 11 a.m. PDT, the package was delivered to Facebook and the company began evacuating some of the Menlo Park campus buildings. As of right now, no employees have exhibited symptoms of sarin poisoning, but two are currently being monitored by authorities, officials said.