updated 9/6/2007 11:10:37 AM ET 2007-09-06T15:10:37

A substance found at a U.N. weapons inspectors’ office last month and suspected of being a chemical warfare agent appears to be a nontoxic solvent, a U.N. official said Thursday.

The material was found Aug. 24 at a U.N. office in midtown Manhattan in inventory files with a label that indicated it could be phosgene, a chemical substance used in World War I weapons. It had been in the files for 11 years and was only identified when officials checked the inventory number against the many records in the vast archives.

U.N. and U.S. officials said after the discovery that the material posed no threat to anyone’s health or safety. However, it was removed by a team of hazardous materials experts from the FBI and New York City police and taken to a laboratory for testing.

Preliminary results indicate the substance was a nontoxic solvent, not the chemical agent phosgene, the U.N. official said.

“If it turns out to be something that was mislabled, we’ll need to find out why it was mislabled,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the final results have not yet returned from the lab.

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