What Security Measures Does USPS® Have in Place for the Mailstream?


Is Mail X-Rayed?

Some of the mail that is sent through the United States Postal Service will pass through an X-Ray machine. There are no specific guidelines as to what may or may not be x-rayed, though mail sent to or through larger cities is likely to pass through an X-Ray machine.

If you have additional questions about X-Raying of items, contact your local Post Office.

Note: Marking a mailpiece "Do Not X-Ray" will not forgo the X-Raying of a mailpiece, and may result in the item being considered suspicious.


Is Mail Ever Irradiated or Sanitized?

The only mail currently being irradiated is mail sent to federal government agencies in Washington, DC, for ZIP Codes™ beginning with 202, 203, 204 and 205. Mail to these Zones is accumulated at a site near the Brentwood Road facility, and then shipped to New Jersey to be irradiated. This process in New Jersey takes approximately 24 hours. Mail can take three (3) to five (5) days longer to reach its destination than it did prior to irradiation, but is generally not more than three (3) days. Mail returned from New Jersey is aired out for a short period before it is processed at a postal location designated for sorting all Government mail. Once the United States Postal Service® provides mail to Congress and other affected government groups, some have their own mail rooms that do additional security checking before the mail is sorted and actually given to the recipients. Customers may send either Priority Mail® or Priority Mail Express™ items for expedited handling. This mail is not irradiated unless it is sent to the White House.

Mail may arrive in a plastic bag(gie) with a letter explaining the sanitization process (if the mail was sanitized). If not sanitized, the Postal Service™ "re-wraps" mail that has been harmed so that it can reach its destination. We use bags because it helped us ensure the letter would go with the mailpiece. For sanitized mail customers, the Postal Service™ is exploring various methods and hasn't yet made a final decision on whether to bag or not bag sanitized mail before it reaches its destination.

The Postal Service™ process for sanitizing the mail is a three-tier approach:

  • Immediate action - Using available off-site facilities to decontaminate.
  • Short-term action - Identifying key postal locations for the centralized processing and sanitization of mail.
  • Long-term action - Identifying and building into existing processes sanitization equipment that is completely safe for employees and customers.


What are the Effects of Irradiation?

Irradiation can have a negative effect on some plant, food, medical, and electronic devices. But most mail is not currently being irradiated. Only mail to federal government agencies in Washington, DC whose ZIP Code™ ranges begin with 202, 203, 204 and 205 are being irradiated.

While some people have reported mild symptoms after handling irradiated mail, substantial biological and medical testing has found no link between irradiated mail and those symptoms. Because the irradiation process can dry out paper and "yellow" the mail, there may be more paper dust or roughness associated with this mail. The irradiation process does not create any harmful radiation. The process was developed in consultation with scientists and experts both within and outside the federal government, led by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.


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