Updated January 9, 2008    
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Safety and Health
Keeping letter carriers safe on the job

  USPS Biohazard Detection System (BDS)
  Four sites still being monitored
Information on the
Biohazard Detection System
BDS Fact Sheet
(in .pdf, 17 K)
How BDS was Developed
(in .pdf, 16K)
BDS Diagram
(in .pdf, 39K)

Mandatory USPS Standup Talk: BDS Test Begins
(in .pdf, 28K)

Mandatory USPS Standup Talk: BDS Alert Evacuation
(in .pdf, 20K)
USPS Management Instruction: BDS Alert-Positive Test: Evacuation, personal decontamination, and post-exposure prophylaxis
(in .pdf, 52K)

The USPS started Biohazard Detection System (BDS) pre-production testing in 15 Processing and Distributions Centers (P&DCs) across the country July 14. In a Postal Record column, former NALC Director of Safety and Health Al Ferranto discussed the new USPS Biohazard Detection System (BDS) which is currently being tested across the country. He provided the following brief answers to basic questions about the system. As of the end of September, four test sites were still being monitored.

What is BDS?

BDS stands for biohazard detection system.
It is proven technology designed exclusively for the Postal Service. The BDS uses sophisticated DNA matching to detect the presence of anthrax (Bacillus anthracis) in the mail. It will continuously test air samples from mail canceling equipment.
The BDS unit consists of an air-collection hood, a cabinet where the collection and analysis devices are housed, a local computer network connection, and a site controller—a networked computer.

How does BDS work?

All the BDS processes are automated. The equipment collects samples of air as the mail moves through a canceling machine. It absorbs the airborne particles into a sterile water base. This creates a liquid sample that can be tested. The liquid sample is injected into a cartridge, and the automated test for a DNA match is performed.

Has the BDS been tested?

The Executive Office of the President's Office of Science and Technology Policy created an interagency working group that reviewed the performance of the BDS and confirmed with heir own tests that the BDS is consistent with the state of the art laboratory-based detection systems and is sufficient to perform the task stipulated by the Postal Service. Agencies and offices that evaluated the BDS design included:

  • USAMRIID (U. S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases)
  • Navy Medical Research Center
  • NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology)
  • Department of Agriculture
  • Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab
See chart for links to more information on the USPS Biohazard Detection System.
  © National Association of Letter Carriers, AFL-CIO