Video: De-Activating Anthrax Mail

msnbc.com
updated 2/23/2006 1:00:43 PM ET 2006-02-23T18:00:43

Yesterday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, tried to calm fears of another anthrax attack like the one in 2001, in which anthrax-laced letters were sent to NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw, as well as two U.S. senators.  

Officials believe a 44-year-old man was exposed to spores of anthrax in raw animal hide he imported from Africa to make drums.  Regardless, anthrax-laced letters are still a threat, or perceived to be one, anyway but steps are being taken by many people to find a way to stop it.

Seventeen-year-old, Marc Roberge' won first place in a science contest for discovering a way to deactivate anthrax in mail.  He joined Tucker Carlson on ‘Situation’ to discuss his experiment.

To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, ‘SITUATION’:  Tell us, how is it done?

MARC ROBERGE, SCIENCE CONTEST WINNER:  Well, just simply put the iron on the envelope and iron it back and forth for five minutes in the high temperature range, and it killed all the bacillus spores that I used. 

CARLSON:  Wait.  So all you do is you take the kind of iron that you iron your shirts?

ROBERGE:  Yes.

CARLSON:  And you just put it on the envelope and go back and forth.  And that's it?

ROBERGE:  Yes.  Apply pressure and it's gone. 

CARLSON:  So as I remember, back in 2001, the federal government was spending millions and millions and millions of dollars to decontaminate mail, and all they needed was an iron?

ROBERGE:  Well, no.  This is not what I would call the first response to anything.  The CDC and the government and my recommendation is that if you ever get a suspicious envelope, the first thing you should always do is contact the proper authorities. 

This is a backup for, you know, the extreme imagination.  You get snowed in and the authorities can't get to you.  You don't want to leave the mail alone, because you're really worried, then you can iron it.  But this is never the first response.  Always—the first thing you should always do is contact the proper authorities. 

CARLSON:  But if you do get an anthrax laden letter in the middle of a blizzard, the iron will do?

ROBERGE:  Yes, it will work, at the high temperature setting. 

CARLSON:  I think our viewers are wondering the obvious question: what were you doing playing with anthrax spores at home?

ROBERGE:  Well, first of all, I didn't use anthrax.  I used a surrogate, bacillus subtilis, which is similar.  Same family but nonlethal, which is a good thing, of course. 

CARLSON:  Yes.

ROBERGE:  And more resistant to dry heat than anthrax.  So the ideology behind this is if it worked on bacillus subtilis, it would work at least equally well, if not more so, on anthrax. 

And that also reminds me.  I only used dry heat in this project.  So that's the other reason I stuck with bacillus subtilis, is because it's more related to dry heat experiments than using steam heat. 

CARLSON:  Where can you get bacillus subtilis at CVS?

ROBERGE:  No, I ordered it from a special company, SGM Biotech. 

CARLSON:  When you do that, your name is obviously put on some sort of highly secret CIA watch list.  You know that, right?

ROBERGE:  That's classified; I can't tell you. 

CARLSON:  OK.  So have you passed this information on to the federal government?

ROBERGE:  Well, it's being submitted and published in the “Journal of Medical Toxicology.”  And my dad actually works for the government, so I know his bosses have heard about this.  But I have not been in contact, and they have not been in contact with me, either way. 

CARLSON:  Aren't you supposed to be making, like, model rockets or baking soda volcanoes or something like that

ROBERGE:  That was last year. 

CARLSON:  OK.  How did you determine how to kill anthrax in mail?

ROBERGE:  Well, it's partially, again, thanks to my father.  In 2001 when this all began, my father was asked by CNN to answer a question by a caller.  And a woman called on and said, you know, “I know the post office is doing things about this.  But if an individual is worried, could you iron your mail?”

And my dad's response was something to the degree of hypothetically, yes, but there's really been no sort of study done on this. 

And last year I was taking A.P. biology in high school, and our teacher, Mr. Crotec  always wants to us do some sort of science project.  And I forget if I was talking with somebody or read something and just I remembered—anthrax came up and I remembered this, because Dad had discussed this with our family.  And I thought that that would certainly be an interesting and new project to do.  Certainly not a generic, old project. 

CARLSON:  Certainly not.  That's kind of the understatement of the year.  So I mean, do you plan to continue doing research along these lines?

ROBERGE:  Well, in terms of my future, I am looking at becoming either a doctor or medical researcher.  And you know, one idea I had, if I did this project over again, you know, or if somebody else did it would be to try it with steam heat. 

But again, I chose not to do that that for this project, primarily because there's an ongoing debate about whether steam heat may actually incubate the bacteria, and also, you know, steam can rip open envelopes.  And if you haven't killed the bacteria yet, that could be a slight problem. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  I wouldn't try that at home.  Just my advice.

Watch 'The Situation with Tucker Carlson' each weeknight at 11 p.m. ET

© 2013 msnbc.com Reprints

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,