White power threat in Iowa House not handled properly, experts warn

According to public safety officials and lawmakers, an incident in which white powder spilled from an envelope opened on the floor of the Iowa House was not handled properly.

While the powder was later determined not to be anthrax or any other harmful substance, the situation highlighted the need to review public safety policies at the Capitol building. Hazardous materials teams held approximately 300 lawmakers, staffers and others who had potentially been exposed to the substance on Tuesday night, the Des Moines Register reports.

"I would say, like anything, it was a very learning experience and that it will be handled differently next time," Rep. Steve Olson (R-De Witt) said, according to the Des Moines Register.

A lack of containment was the biggest issue according to experts, as it took more than an hour for a hazmat team to arrive after the substance was released at approximately 3:45 p.m. According to experts, the correct response would have been to quarantine the substance and limit the exposure to as few people as possible. Security at the building thought the situation could be handled by a postal inspector but called in hazmat crews after some people began complaining of headaches.

While state mail typically goes through an eradication process before being distributed to state offices, the letter was hand delivered to Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad. The FBI and other agencies are now investigating the incident to determine who delivered the letter.

"I just think it was a learning experience for us," Abdul-Samad said, according to the Des Moines Register. "It brought up a point how accessible we are as legislators and it's something we need to look at because we are up here serving the people. That's our job."