Stinky fish lure concoction clears post office

/ Source: The Associated Press

Fish might be attracted to garlic-flavored lure dye, but it doesn't mix well with suburban postal employees.

A small container of the yellow, oily liquid spilled in an Alabama post office Tuesday, causing a scare that resulted in 23 people being sent to Birmingham-area hospitals and the one-story brick building being shut down for a day of decontamination.

Many anglers are familiar with such concoctions and use them without any protection. The mixture that spilled, J.J.'s Magic, is a fish attractant that's commonly applied to artificial lures like rubber worms either by dipping or spraying. Fish are supposed to love the garlic smell.

"This is stuff that people handle and put on fish lures," said postal inspector Frank Dyer.

But the postal workers didn't know what they were dealing with when some of the highly concentrated, foul-smelling liquid leaked out of a container around 9:15 a.m. CDT. Six workers reported breathing difficulties and were rushed to a hospital for decontamination, and the remainder were sent later as a precaution.

All 23 were treated and released.

Authorities initially thought the mixture was so strong it had burned the floor of a work area, but they later discovered tiles were discolored by the bright yellow dye in J.J.'s Magic.

The manufacturer of the lure dye, J.J. Polak of suburban Atlanta, said a 2-ounce glass bottle that was sent to a customer in suburban Birmingham apparently broke. The liquid evaporates quickly and created a stench as the garlic smell wafted through the building.

Polak declined further comment.

"When the postal inspector and the FBI call you ...," he said. "I'm cooperating with them."

Larry Dingman, a spokesman with the Postal Service, said authorities have to be careful any time an unknown, potentially dangerous substance shows up in a post office.

"We always treat every one like it's a hazardous situation," he said.