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    BIOTERRORBIBLE.COM: In the aftermath of man-made bio-terror generated pandemic, the government and media will be feeding the public any number of different scapegoats allegedly responsible for the pandemic that will likely kill millions.

    While some scapegoats (see below) are indeed plausible, it is much more likely that the live pathogens or agents responsible for the pandemic will likely be dispersed via A) chemtrails by government airplanes or drones, B) by the U.S. Postal Service via Tide detergent samples, C) by the government and medical establishment via tainted vaccines, or by D) the portable petri dish commonly known as the Trojan condom.

    Bio-Terror Scapegoats: Africa, Agriculture (Food & Animals), Airports & Air Travel, Al Qaeda, Bio Labs, Bio-Terrorism Is Easy, Bio-Terrorists (Bio-Hackers), Black Market, Bugs & Insects, Censorship / Lack Thereof, Domestic Terrorists, Exotic Animals (Zoonosis), Government Ineptitude, Mail-Order DNA, Mexico, Missile Shield Failure, Mutation, Natural Disaster, No Clinical Trials (Vaccines), and The Monkeys.

    Title: Russian Lab Storing Germs Faces Cut-Off Of Electricity
    Date: April 7, 2002
    Source: New York Times

    Abstract: A large repository of anthrax, plague and other deadly bacteria stored in a high-security laboratory complex 100 miles south of here is facing a threat never imagined in the Soviet era -- the meter man.

    An official from the Moscow region's Mosenergo electric utility arrived recently and threatened to turn off the electricity for lack of payment at the 90-building campus, which served as the secret biological weapons program of the Soviet era.

    A headline in the newspaper Izvestia warned, ''Deadly Viruses From a Moscow Regional Depository Threaten Moscow.''

    Actually, there are no viruses at the State Scientific Center of Applied Microbiology in Obolensk, just every kind of deadly bacteria that was studied for use in the secret biological weapons program of the Soviet Union. (A large virus repository is in Siberia.)

    Russian and Western officials say that while it is unlikely that any public health threat would result from a power cutoff, there is enough uncertainty that none were willing to say that categorically.

    ''We have quite reliable systems of protection in case of emergency,'' Gen. Nikolai N. Urakov said by telephone. He is the longtime director of the center, which has been working with Western scientists to convert the complex into a biomedical manufacturing site.

    ''But we are scared by this threat of a sudden shutdown of electricity,'' he added, ''because it is a kind of psychological pressure on us.'' In the event of a shutdown, he said, scientists must destroy all bacteriological experiments under way.

    About 3,000 strains of bacteria are stored at the center, many of them in cryogenic casks cooled with liquid nitrogen and isolated from the environment by layered enclosures and oversize air-handling systems, and all dependent on electricity.

    The greatest danger from a shutdown of electric power would be the defrosting of live germs now preserved in a frozen state.

    ''The main threat is to the organisms themselves rather than that they might escape,'' said Raymond Zilinskas, a biological warfare expert at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. ''Under the worst case, these things would be defrosted from minus 70 degrees, and it would be a real mess to clean it up afterward because you wouldn't know for sure whether everything was dead'' (New York Times, 2002).

    Title: Report Finds Easy Lab Access To Deadly Pathogens
    Date: May 7, 2002
    Source: Reuters

    Abstract: Unauthorized scientists, students and foreigners are routinely granted access to federal laboratories where potentially deadly biological agents, like anthrax and salmonella, are stored, according to a government report released on Tuesday.



    The Sept. 11 attacks on the United States and the subsequent anthrax scare have prompted several government and private assessments, many of them critical, on the security of government laboratories that handle contagious viruses and bacteria.

    An investigation by the US Department of Agriculture's inspector general found many of the USDA's 124 laboratories were vulnerable to theft and unable to keep track of biological agents.

    Almost half of the labs need security improvements such as alarm systems, security fences and surveillance cameras, the USDA inspector general's report said.

    Scientists and researchers, including non-US citizens, who were "not associated with USDA work" had regular access to the most sensitive areas in the laboratories, it said.

    "Unauthorized personnel with knowledge of a laboratory's inventory could remove a biological agent and place it in a terrorist's hands long before the theft was discovered," the report said.

    Some USDA labs could not accurately determine what viruses and bacteria were being stored.

    At one major laboratory, which the USDA would not identify, a vial containing 3 billion doses of Vesicular stomatitis virus was listed as being on hand, but could not be found. The infectious disease affects both livestock and humans.

    USDA officials, including Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, have noted the need to improve security at USDA laboratories.

    In response, the USDA has devised a 10-year plan to modernize all its laboratories. So far, Congress has appropriated $113 million of the $450 million needed for the renovations. USDA officials said they expect the plan to be completed by 2006.

    The USDA needs to implement the modernization plan more quickly, the report said (Reuters, 2002)

    Title: New Boss Tackling Germ Lab Problems
    Date:
    May 21, 2002
    Source: UCLA

    Abstract: Maj. Gen. Lester Martinez-Lopez took over the Army's germ warfare defense laboratory as it was recovering from reports of lax security, misplaced pathogens and other unprofessional conduct.

    Soon after his arrival, his job became even more complicated with the latest bad news -- anthrax spores had been discovered in the lab.

    Martinez, tapped in March to head the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, faces the twin challenges of helping fight the war on bioterrorism and trying to clean up operations at the lab at the forefront of the battle.

    Last month, an anthrax spill in the Fort Detrick laboratory, known as USAMRIID, led to the discovery of anthrax spores outside containment areas designed to prevent such releases.

    Martinez said a new program aimed at clarifying Army rules for handling, shipping and storing biological agents should strengthen public trust in the institute, which plays a central role in the investigation of last fall's anthrax mailings.

    "We have good systems, but we're going to make them even safer,'' the Puerto Rican-born physician said in an interview with The Associated Press. "The safety and surety of USAMRIID is of overarching concern.''

    Scientists at the 32-year-old laboratory develop vaccines and antidotes for diseases soldiers could encounter in the field, either naturally or as targets of biological weapons.

    FBI agents tapped the lab's expertise after the anthrax mailings that killed five people and sickened 13 others last year. The FBI is a constant presence at Fort Detrick, guarding samples of anthrax sent there by other research labs for genetic analysis.

    FBI agents have also questioned Detrick scientists, investigating the possibility that the tainted letters were sent by someone with expertise learned at USAMRIID or with access to the lab.

    Locally, Fort Detrick is under pressure from Frederick Mayor Jennifer Dougherty to be more forthcoming about its operations, including the cleanup of an old dump that contains toxic chemicals and -- the Army recently learned -- infectious pathogens.

    Martinez, 46, is used to high-pressure assignments. He was part of the multinational force sent to the Middle East after Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982. He was chief medical officer for the U.S. mission to Haiti in 1995, after U.S. troops intervened to restore Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power.

    He was sent to Central America in 1998 to oversee medical relief for victims of Hurricane Mitch, which killed at least 8,500 people.

    Martinez "is a soldier and physician uniquely qualified'' for his new assignment, said Lt. Gen. James B. Peake, commander of the U.S. Army Medical Command.

    Although his job is protecting and training soldiers, Martinez said the work being done at Fort Detrick can enhance public health. To that end, he said the Defense Department is reaching out to other public agencies and private institutions to collaborate on bioterrorism defenses.

    "The issue is, how do we capitalize not only on our work but on the work that everybody is doing around the world and use it in such a way that we can focus that new technology on systems that can really make a difference -- to the soldier on point and, in the long run, for the good of everybody,'' he said (UCLA, 2002)

    Title: After 9/11, Universities Are Destroying Biological Agents
    Date: December 17, 2002
    Source:
    New York Times

    Abstract: As federal officials search for more powerful tools to investigate biological terrorism, universities across the country are destroying collections of laboratory agents crucial for understanding how biological weapons work and tracing their sources.

    New federal laws require only that such biological materials be registered, but many universities are pressing researchers to clean out their freezers and destroy materials they are not currently working on.

    While there is no official count of how many biological specimens have been destroyed, concern that laboratories have gone overboard prompted the White House to ask institutions, through the American Society of Microbiologists, to reconsider their haste in doing away with specimens that could prove "difficult or impossible to replace," said Rachel Levinson, of the White House Office on Science and Technology Policy.

    "Obviously, these materials are valuable as research tools, and in terms of developing countermeasures should these agents be used as weapons, or if there's an unintentional natural outbreak," Dr. Levinson said. "They're valuable research tools, and we would not like to see them destroyed."

    Under laws enacted since last year's anthrax mailings, which killed five people, research institutions, clinical and diagnostic laboratories must inventory and register the presence of 61 select agents that could be used to make biological weapons, including ebola, herpes B, smallpox and a variety of toxins. The materials must be kept under lock and key, with access to them restricted to people cleared by government background checks. Scientists must also demonstrate a "bona fide research purpose" for working with a given material.

    The problem appears to lie in conflicting messages from Washington and in overly zealous compliance with the new laws on select agents, said Ronald Atlas, president of the American Society of Microbiologists. The prosecution of Tomas Foral, a University of Connecticut scientist arrested after he pocketed an anthrax specimen in cleaning out a laboratory freezer, caused many researchers to think twice, Dr. Atlas recalled.

    "Many say Tomas Foral at Connecticut was a clear message from the Justice Department to the scientific community: If you can't justify having it, clear it out," Dr. Atlas said. "When you have these criminal penalties hanging over your head, you ask, `Why should I be the one to bear that legal risk?' "

    The most spectacular example of the wholesale destruction of specimens came last year, when Iowa State University at Ames destroyed its entire collection of anthrax specimens. The university acted after an Ames strain was tied to the fatal anthrax letters, and with the criminal investigation in full swing.

    John McCarroll, a spokesman for Iowa State, said copies of the anthrax strains that were destroyed existed elsewhere, but other scientists disagree. They maintain that recent advances in genetic engineering have shown that families of strains that appeared the same were, on closer inspection, quite different. Mr. McCarroll said that more recently, Iowa State had asked researchers to destroy select agents that they were not "currently working on."

    Few universities have gone so far as to order the elimination of specimens outright. Rather, in conducting inventories of biological agents, most have urged researchers to consider seriously, and justify, their need for sensitive materials. Some describe the procedure as good "housekeeping," saying as a matter of principle, dangerous materials not immediately needed should be discarded.

    At the University of Pennsylvania, the new laws on select agents has prompted not just housekeeping, but also soul searching, said Matthew Finucane, director of environmental health and radiation safety.

    "If they don't have a mission for the material, people are disposing of it," Mr. Finucane said.

    At Duke University, the discovery of a select agent was grounds for an "internal audit," said Wayne Thomann, the university's director of occupational and environmental health. If they were "historical stocks" and researchers could not come up with a current need for the agents, Mr. Thomann said, "we went through a process of controlled destruction."

    "I can't give any exact numbers," he said, "but it was a fair number that decided there wasn't a real research benefit in maintaining this stuff."

    Harvard University did not suggest researchers destroy agents, but R. John Collier, a biochemist who works on anthrax there, said he had taken it upon himself last year to destroy the only strain he had on hand "to avoid attracting terrorists and more of the press than I wanted."

    But policies that make sense in other contexts, like discarding old samples, are madness when it comes to scientific research, said Steven Block, a physics and biology professor at Stanford University.

    Dr. Block said past strains of anthrax were essential for understanding how quickly an organism altered itself in nature.

    "So much you can learn by knowing the evolutionary biology of bacteria," he said, "but you can't research that evolutionary biology if you can't look at the past versions of it. It's the connectedness of all this that's so important."

    Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Immunopathogenesis and Infectious Diseases at Columbia University, said, "What you're discarding is access to materials and intellectual property you may need downstream."

    Dr. Lipkin is investigating what causes diseases like autism and cancer, and relies on comparing genetic sequences in as many specimens as possible. "This will definitely interfere with our work," he said.

    He noted that in the 1990's accusations arose that American scientists had introduced the AIDS virus, H.I.V., to Africa through earlier research infecting monkeys with polio. The scientific community was only able to disprove the theory conclusively by turning over the 40-year-old cells for independent scrutiny.

    Dr. Levinson, at the White House, said that if institutions really felt intimidated by the new rules, they should transfer the materials to a laboratory willing to accept them.

    Others have said the administration should have created such a repository to accept materials that laboratories felt compelled to discard. And many fear that it may take time to repair the harm that is being done.

    "I would hope that we could recover from any deleterious effect in the long run," said Barbara Johnson, president of the American Society of Biological Safety. "But if you had a unique sample that no one had replicates of, that sample's gone" (New York Times, 2002).

    Title: Power Fails For 3 Hours At Plum Island Infectious Disease Lab
    Date:
    December 20, 2002
    Source: New York Times

    Abstract: A three-hour power failure at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center last weekend renewed concerns about the safety of the high-security government laboratory while it is being run partly by replacement workers during a five-months strike.

    The loss of power and failure of all three backup generators raised fears for the first time that the containment of infectious pathogens could have been seriously compromised at the laboratory. The center, which is run by the United States Agriculture Department, studies highly infectious animal diseases like foot and mouth disease and African swine fever.

    Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton called yesterday for the laboratory to cease all operations until an independent safety review could be conducted.

    Scientists familiar with the center said that since the diseases studied on the island do not, for the most part, affect humans, the risk to workers at the center and to residents of the nearby North Fork of Long Island was minimal. Several experts in infectious diseases said, however, that a power failure at such a facility for so long was extraordinarily unusual.

    Ken Alibek, a former top Soviet germ warfare official now at George Mason University, said that although he knew of power failures at similar facilities, he did not know of a case in which the power and all the backup generators failed for this long.

    ''If there was any risk of a pathogen in the air, they need to quarantine all healthy animals,'' he said. ''If they are sure there was no pathogen in the air, they may not need to quarantine but they need to take steps to be sure there was no contagion.''

    Sandy Hayes, a spokeswoman for the Agriculture Department, said that the day after the power failed, safety inspectors recreated what had happened. ''They said they were sure there was no bio-containment breach,'' she said. She said that all animals were being monitored and that none had shown any signs of problems.

    Ms. Hayes said that Plum Island called the Long Island Power Authority on Sunday about 1:30 p.m. reporting that the voltage it was receiving was too low. Bert Cunningham, a spokesman for the authority, said the Plum Island workers told the authority that they would turn the power off and use backup generators until the problem was resolved.

    Ms. Hayes said that when the generators failed to start automatically, managers at Plum Island tried to start them manually. ''They would only stay on for a few minutes and then fail,'' she said, leaving the center without power for roughly three hours. She said the problem appeared to be mechanical and not the result of any tampering. Striking workers said the replacement workers were unfamiliar with the equipment. This week, two new backup generators were installed, Ms. Hayes said.

    At the time of the power failure, three workers were in the biological containment areas and they were told they could not leave until the power was restored. Ms. Hayes said the workers were not at any risk to their own health.

    The Plum Island center employs about 200 people, many of whom are federal government workers, including the scientists and researchers. The 76 union members who went on strike Aug. 13 are members of the International Union of Operating Engineers and are employed by L B & B Associates, a government subcontractor.

    Ed Brandon, the chief operating officer of L B & B, said he had no comment on the incident. The strikers include operators of the power plant and the wastewater treatment plant. Since the strike began, union members, workers on the island and government officials have expressed concern about whether the center can operate safely.

    The F.B.I. was called to the island in August to investigate reports of sabotage after water pressure fell too low. As a result of that investigation, Mark J. DePonte, a striking worker, pleaded guilty to tampering with government property. In October, a 600-gallon container of liquid nitrogen fell from the rear of a ferry at the center. In November, it was discovered that a replacement worker had an arrest record.

    The latest incident was made public when a replacement worker notified members of Senator Clinton's staff of the power failure. In an interview, the worker, who insisted on anonymity, said, ''The reason I am coming forward is because what I have seen at the center is really out of hand and something needs to be done about it.'' Requests by The New York Times to visit the island have been rejected.

    The power failure is the first time the possibility of a leak of the pathogens studied on the island has been raised.

    Workers currently on the island, who insisted on anonymity, strikers familiar with the operation, government officials and outside scientists said the power failure could have compromised the safety of the center in several ways.

    People leaving the labs have to go through an elaborate cleaning process: stripping, passing back through the air lock, scrubbing their nails, spitting and blowing their noses to clear their respiratory systems, showering and shampooing their hair. All the rooms are separated by doors that are sealed with what look like bicycle inner tubes filled with air. The pressure in the seals is maintained by an air compressor, and if the power fails, those seals begin to deflate after 15 minutes. Government officials confirmed that this happened.

    Ms. Hayes said workers at the center sealed the doors with duct tape.

    In addition, the air pressure in the entire building is kept lower than the pressure outside; if there is a leak, air would enter, not escape. Under normal operation, air in the building is filtered before being vented. With the power out, the filtering would have stopped, but experts thought that the overall pressure of the facility would probably have stayed low enough to have limited the risk of a leak (New York Times, 2002).

    Title: Labs Unprepared For Chemical Attacks
    Date: February 7, 2003
    Source:
    UCLA

    Abstract: The nation's public health laboratories are woefully unprepared to handle chemical weapons agents such as sarin or mustard gas that could be used in a terrorist attack, according to a 50-state survey released yesterday.

    On a scale of 1 to 10, 37 state labs rated their chemical response capability at or below a 4, while nine others gave themselves scores of 5 or 6, according to the Association of Public Health Laboratories, which conducted the survey last month. Only eight labs have chemical response plans. There are no national protocols for testing or shipping suspicious chemicals.

    "We have almost nothing in place if an event occurred tomorrow," said Scott Becker, executive director of the association.

    Since the anthrax attacks of 2001, public health labs have raced to upgrade their bioterrorism units, purchasing equipment, hiring specialists and tightening security. But few have the expertise or technology needed to identify some of the 150 most hazardous chemical agents.

    "The big fear in the lab community is the unknown sample somebody cooked up that may contain multiple agents," said Jim Pearson, director of Virginia's division of consolidated laboratory services. "You could have a powder that somebody says is anthrax, and here it's some chemical agent that blisters. It affects your staff and puts you out of business."

    Lab directors and terrorism experts across the country say they dread scenarios such as the release of a mysterious gas in a subway or basketball arena. Soon people would begin coughing, fainting or reporting other symptoms.

    "In our state, within the first 30 minutes, the mayor of Salt Lake City or the governor of Utah would be asking: What is it?" said Charles Brokopp, the Utah state lab director.

    But even after elaborate preparations for last year's Olympics, Brokopp said he still would have to send chemical samples to a federal lab and wait 18 to 24 hours for results. "Timing is very important, because that information can be vital to the physicians and emergency departments involved in treating these individuals," he said.

    However, Randall Larsen, a retired Air Force colonel and director of the ANSER Institute for Homeland Security, said release of the deadliest chemical agents would not require lab confirmation because people would die rapidly.

    He cautioned against spending precious homeland security dollars on preparing state labs for situations they may never encounter.

    The government has focused on biological threats in large measure because deadly germs such as anthrax are obtainable by terrorists and small quantities are easily concealed.

    Armed with millions in federal aid, state labs have rapidly improved their capability to detect biological agents, said Steve Hinrichs, director of the Nebraska Public Health Lab. But asking a microbiologist to conduct chemical analysis is akin to hiring a car mechanic to fix an airplane, he said.

    "One of our concerns is a terrorist would be smart enough to do a dual attack," he said. "They'd use a chemical agent on top of a biological agent."

    Five states, including Virginia, have received money from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to test clinical samples such as blood and urine for dangerous chemicals in the event of an attack. This year, CDC hopes to add 10 more labs to that effort, said Dayton Miller, associate director of the lab division at CDC's National Center for Environmental Health.

    "We're all very much aware of the need to expand chemical lab capacity," he said. "We're working very hard to do our part to make that happen." But the CDC program focuses only on human specimens, while state labs encounter much more.

    A portion of the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport was closed for several hours recently until the state lab officials could determine that a strange coating of grease on an abandoned suitcase was curry butter and not something hazardous, said lab director Norman Crouch.

    "That gives you an idea of what state laboratories are expected to do," he said. "When something happens, we are called in" (UCLA, 2003).

    Title: Loose Monkey Teaches Biodefense Lab A Lesson On The Hazards Of Secrecy
    Date: February 26, 2003
    Source:
    Sunshine Project

    Abstract: Biodefense accidents can spread of some of the world's most infectious and lethal diseases. As part of the $6 billion-plus expansion of the US biodefense program, more than three dozen new and upgraded "hot zones" have been proposed across the country. Arms control experts and health and safety watchdog groups are deeply concerned that secrecy at these labs will undermine US compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention, result in accident cover-ups, and obscure risks to surrounding communities. Because of these concerns, in early February, a group of non-profit watchdogs began sending a series of open letters to proposed biodefense labs asking them to commit, in writing, to policies that prohibit all classified research and which ensure transparency of their operations.

    A contender to receive federal biodefense funding is the University of California at Davis (UCD), which wishes to build a biosafety level 4 laboratory (BSL4), the most secure type of facility, capable of handling dangerous agents such as Ebola virus. In recent weeks, UCD's proposal has come under intense fire from community activists. UCD only consulted its neighbors in the final days before submitting its BSL4 proposal, when it sought a letter of support from the Davis City Council. Some BSL4 labs, including that proposed by UCD, deliberately infect animals with disease.

    Davis citizens were understandably angered when the story broke on Monday that a monkey had escaped from UCD’s primate breeding facility, which rears animals for biodefense experiments. University officials had been hiding the story for ten days. It took a whistleblower's leak to the local newspaper before UCD decided to advise the community of the security breach. UCD says the rhesus monkey - which remains at large - is disease-free; but citizens are asking the obvious questions: Why did UCD keep the escape secret? According to Joshua English, a community activist in Davis, "When we found out that UCD officials suppressed information regarding the escaped monkey, the first thing that I think came to everyone's mind was 'how open will they be when that escaped monkey is infected with ebola?"

    Not Monkey Business: The rogue two kilogram primate has done far more than thwart her captors. The lost monkey would have been an embarrassment under any circumstances; but UCD’s suppression of the news provoked anger that may have delivered a deathblow to UCD’s BSL4 ambition, tipping the balance on the Davis City Council against the University. Davis Mayor Susie Boyd says she personally supports UCD; but because of community opposition, has joined opponents on the City Council and disinvited UCD’s project from the city. Boyd wrote UCD that she and the City Council "have concluded the facility will remain an unwelcome project by our residents." Adding to UCD's woes was a vote, last Friday, in which UCD workers allied in the Professional and Technical Employees Union decided against the BSL4 proposal. The Union represents laboratory workers and animal handlers.

    Secrets Elsewhere: UCD's lack of transparency has put its application for federal biodefense dollars in deep jeopardy. While other laboratories have avoided UCD's catastrophic meltdown, some are committing the same errors that have led to UCD's woes. The New York State Department of Health's Wadsworth Center and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, for example, believe that even the fact that they are seeking a new biodefense lab should remain a secret.

    At the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston, officials are quietly retreating from a pledge made in 2001 that their BSL4 facility will not conduct classified work and will be "wide open and above board". That standard, which UTMB used in public meetings and on its website, has been downgraded to apply only to its "current plans". Future work, outside researchers granted access to its labs, and new laboratory spaces are under no such transparency commitment.

    There is also biosafety accident history that has not been presented to the public. One of UTMB's lead researchers formerly directed a Yale University lab where faulty equipment and inadequate safety measures resulted in a researcher being infected with Brazilian Hemorrhagic Fever (sabia virus). The infected scientist did not report the accident, in which a liquid containing a high concentration of sabia was aerosolized. The severity of the accident and the infection were not detected by lab management for several days, during which the virus was released outside the containment zone. Sabia is usually spread by rodents and is not believed to be human-to-human transmissible, however, some closely-related arenaviruses (a UTMB specialty) can be spread from person to person. The infected scientist was successfully treated after showing symptoms. The lab director left Yale shortly after the incident.

    "UTMB is propping up a transparency façade through carefully crafted statements that don't mean what they sound like. A careful look at UTMB’s words betrays a sad slide toward secrecy," says Edward Hammond, Director of the Sunshine Project, a biological weapons watchdog in Austin, TX, "Most of all, I am concerned about how the behavior of UCD and UTMB will impact biological weapons control. The international system to prevent these weapons relies on transparency, on the ability of an informed public to judge the nature and intent of biodefense experiments. This security seems to be an afterthought for these institutions. They are instead preoccupied with public image and scientific rivalries, threatening control of biological weapons with their petty arrogance."

    The US Department of Energy's proposals to construct and operate biowarfare agent facilities inside its nuclear weapons labs poses an additional, very serious threat to US compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). Inside the DOE bio-facilities classified research on bio-agents would be conducted inside classified nuclear weapons development centers - the antithesis of the openness on which the watchdogs insist.

    The "No Secrets" Pledge Non-profit biodefense watchdogs are calling on biodefense labs to make a "no secrets" pledge that includes specific transparency elements. So far, they have contacted three proposed BSL4 biodefense laboratories - UCD, UTMB, and (today) Rocky Mountain Labs in Hamilton, MT. Elements of the pledge, to be made in writing, include a commitment to not conduct classified research (or permit it in their facilities) and to operate completely transparent biosafety committees, the groups that review proposed projects. So far, none have responded. In the coming weeks, the watchdogs will contact more of the three dozen institutions across the US who are seeking new or substantially upgraded hot zone facilities. These include Boston University and the University of Illinois at Chicago, which both are seeking BSL4 facilities. Copies of the letters sent to labs are available at: http://www.sunshine-project.org/biodefense/openletters.html (Sunshine Project, 2003).

    Title: Terrorism And The Biology Lab
    Date: July 2, 2003
    Source:
    New York Times

    Abstract: Were those two suspicious tractor-trailers found in Iraq really mobile weapons laboratories? The difficulty we are having answering that question shows just how tricky defending America against bioterrorism is going to be.

    In truth, it is possible to imagine a malicious use for virtually any biological research or production site. The difference between a lab for producing lifesaving vaccines and one capable of making deadly toxins is largely one of intent.

    As molecular biology continues to advance, this problem will become only more acute. Within a few years it may be possible for an inexperienced graduate student with a few thousand dollars worth of equipment to download the gene structure of smallpox, insert sequences known to increase infectiousness or lethality, and produce enough material to threaten millions of people. Yet, perversely, all of the information and equipment needed to create such a "supervirus" would have been developed in the struggle to cure disease.

    The United States is poorly prepared to deal with this intersection of biology and security. One reason is that most of the scientists in positions to help make national security rules are physicists and engineers, not biologists. Their instincts lead them to solutions that may make sense for nuclear physics but not necessarily for biology. For example, in trying to prevent terrorists and rogue states from developing atomic weapons, it is logical to focus on the details of weapon design and monitor shipments of a short list of specific materials like enriched uranium and plutonium. But putting this sort of emphasis on materials and labs will not suffice on the bioterrorism front, where everyday equipment could be used to create horrors.

    In addition, there are few American biologists with experience in security policy, and most biologists remain willfully oblivious about the extent of the biological terrorism threat. Historically, biologists have had an instinctive antipathy toward national security policy, and their role in Washington has been largely limited to raising money for research and fending off restrictions on research involving issues like stem cells and cloning.

    Physicists have had a vastly different experience. Since World War II and the Manhattan Project, they have worked in an environment where they often move among universities, national weapons laboratories and Washington policy offices during their careers. Most have grown accustomed to dealing with the burdens of security clearances, protecting sensitive information and even having research results kept secret.

    Moreover, physicists have dominated science policy. Since the 1950's, physical scientists and engineers have had a nearly unbroken hold on the directorship of the White House office of science and technology. Physicists know how to exert influence on the Defense Department and the intelligence agencies, and have come to dominate bodies like the Defense Science Board.

    Biologists, whether they like it or not, are now beyond the age of innocence. Unless they get involved at high levels of policy-making, there's a grave risk that another bioweapons scare like the anthrax mailings of 2001 will drive Washington to create that inevitable product of bureaucratic panic: a lose-lose solution. In this case, it would most likely be a set of regulations that would strangle biology research while doing little to thwart real security threats.

    A comprehensive national bioterrorism strategy will of course take years to develop. But some essential first steps can be taken now. For starters, biologists and their professional organizations should make sure that all researchers spend time seriously considering security risks that could be created by their work. Biologists should work with federal agencies to provide more basic biology training for officials who manage security issues. Universities should set up programs to understand the dangers at the intersection of biology and security, and begin training a new generation of experts in the field. Universities and commercial labs must also work with federal agencies to agree on procedures for dealing with potentially dangerous research in the United States — work that could be a basis for an international effort.

    Unless biologists start moving in the right direction on security, they will have only themselves to blame if Washington starts moving in the wrong one (New York Times, 2003).

    Title: Bethesda Residents Fear New NIH Lab Would Be Terror Target
    Date: July 2, 2003
    Source:
    UCLA

    Abstract: A plan by the National Institutes of Health to build a $186 million bio-defense laboratory near a busy Bethesda intersection is provoking concern among some neighbors who worry that terrorists could attack the facility and release deadly microorganisms in the area.

    Scientists want to use the labs near the corner of Rockville Pike and West Cedar Lane to study pathogens that cause anthrax, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), West Nile encephalitis, drug-resistant tuberculosis and other potentially lethal diseases that can be contracted through inhalation.

    Local officials are powerless to block the project because NIH is an arm of the federal government and not subject to local zoning controls. Under an agreement with NIH, however, local planners are entitled to review the proposal and recommend changes before construction begins in November. Last night, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission held an informal public forum, and some neighbors said they fear the project poses a needless risk because terrorists might be tempted to assault the building with a truck bomb, small arms fire or rocket-propelled grenades. They also wondered about the effect of infected animals getting loose.

    "The site is just too inviting,'' said Tom Robertson, of the Parkwood Residents Association, adding that anthrax contamination could result from an attack. "Terrorists might try to put NIH out of business.''

    Commission planners are raising questions about whether the facility is necessary when similar labs exist around the region -- including high-security labs that NIH is building at Fort Detrick in Frederick County.

    "We are looking at the wisdom of locating it in this highly populated area near a Metro station inside the [Capital] Beltway," Marilyn Clemens, a commission planner reviewing the project, said in an interview. "We question this location when the exact same kind of research is going on in Frederick."

    Jack Costello, who represents the nearby Bethesda Parkview Citizens Association, said NIH leaders are overconfident about safety.

    "They don't seem to understand that the world has changed," he said in an interview. "What might have been an acceptable condition before 9/11 becomes now rather tenuous when it's not the employees of NIH who represent the major threat -- but the people outside. Why would you even consider putting such a threat in a highly populated area right on a major artery when there are other options?"

    NIH leaders say they have the funding in hand and that the facilities are essential to expanding the government's capacity to protect the public against bio-terrorism.

    NIH plans to construct Building 33, a 160,000-square-foot structure, in the northeast corner of the sprawling campus, about 400 feet from Rockville Pike. The building would house 25 lead scientists and 240 workers in labs rated at bio-safety level 3 (BSL-3) -- a category requiring trained workers wearing personal protective gear to use special physical containment devices to handle pathogens.

    BSL-3 labs are equipped with double-door access, negative pressure ventilation systems to keep organisms inside, and special seals on walls, windows and doors.

    The project will include an adjacent, six-story parking garage for 1,250 cars to replace the surface parking lost to Building 33.

    Some neighbors are concerned that NIH's open door to thousands of foreign scientists is an invitation to trouble. The campus receives thousands of international scientists and visitors every year.

    Other BSL-3 and BSL-4 labs have existed on the NIH campus for years without problems, said Tom Kindt, director of the intramural research division at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. BSL-4 labs are those that handle pathogens for which there are no known treatments, such as Ebola, and they have the highest level of precautions.

    Security has been tightened considerably since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and, if necessary, he said, Building 33 will use entry systems that rely on a retina scan or a thumbprint. The campus soon will be ringed with a wrought-iron fence, he said.

    Kindt, who did not attend the meeting last night, suggested that neighbors are motivated in part by concern that property values will be affected by their proximity to a bio-defense facility.

    "They worry that the perception will be that others will say they don't want to buy there," he said, adding that bio-terrorism concerns and emerging infections mean that the campus probably will always be studying the pathogens that are least understood and pose the greatest risks.

    "I'd like to say this isn't a trend, but my instinct tells me that emerging diseases are a fact of life," Kindt said. "We're going to have to learn to deal with them. The best defense is good diagnostics, drugs and vaccines" (UCLA, 2003).

    Title: U.S. Labs Mishandling Deadly Germs
    Date: October 2, 2007
    Source:
    MSNBC

    Abstract: American laboratories handling the world’s deadliest germs and toxins have experienced more than 100 accidents and missing shipments since 2003, and the number is increasing steadily as more labs across the country are approved to do the work.

    No one died, and regulators said the public was never at risk during these incidents. But the documented cases reflect poorly on procedures and oversight at high-security labs, some of which work with organisms and poisons so dangerous that illnesses they cause have no cure. In some cases, labs have failed to report accidents as required by law.

    The mishaps include workers bitten or scratched by infected animals, skin cuts, needle sticks and more, according to a review by The Associated Press of confidential reports submitted to federal regulators. They describe accidents involving anthrax, bird flu virus, monkeypox and plague-causing bacteria at 44 labs in 24 states. More than two-dozen incidents were still under investigation.

    The number of accidents has risen steadily. Through August, the most recent period covered in the reports obtained by the AP, labs reported 36 accidents and lost shipments during 2007 — nearly double the number reported during all of 2004.

    Risk to Public health 
    Research labs have worked for years to find cures and treatments for diseases. However, the expansion of the lab network has been dramatic since President Bush announced an upgrade of the nation’s bio-warfare defense program five years ago. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which funds much of the lab research and construction, was spending spent about $41 million on bio-defense labs in 2001. By last year, the spending had risen to $1.6 billion.

    The number of labs approved by the government to handle the deadliest substances has nearly doubled to 409 since 2004. Labs are routinely inspected by federal regulators just once every three years, but accidents trigger interim inspections.

    “It may be only a matter of time before our nation has a public health incident with potentially catastrophic results,” said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce investigations subcommittee. Stupak’s panel has been investigating the lab incidents and will conduct a hearing Thursday.

    Lab accidents have affected the outside world: Britain’s health and safety agency concluded there was a “strong probability” a leaking pipe at a British lab manufacturing vaccines for foot-and-mouth disease was the source of an outbreak of the illness in livestock earlier this year. Britain was forced to suspend exports of livestock, meat and milk products and destroy livestock. The disease does not infect humans.

    Bioterrorism Concerns 
    Accidents aren’t the only concern. While medical experts consider it unlikely that a lab employee will become sick and infect others, these labs have strict rules to prevent anyone from stealing organisms or toxins and using them for bioterrorism.

    The reports were so sensitive the Bush administration refused to release them under the Freedom of Information Act, citing an anti-bioterrorism law aimed at preventing terrorists from locating stockpiles of poisons and learning who handles them.

    Among the Previously Undisclosed Accidents:

    1. In Rockville, Md., ferret No. 992, inoculated with bird flu virus, bit a technician at Bioqual Inc. on the right thumb in July. The worker was placed on home quarantine for five days and directed to wear a mask to protect others.

    2. An Oklahoma State University lab in Stillwater in December could not account for a dead mouse inoculated with bacteria that causes joint pain, weakness, lymph node swelling and pneumonia. The rodent — one of 30 to be incinerated — was never found, but the lab said an employee “must have forgotten to remove the dead mouse from the cage” before the cage was sterilized.

    3. In Albuquerque, N.M., an employee at the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute was bitten on the left hand by an infected monkey in September 2006. The animal was ill from an infection of bacteria that causes plague. “When the gloves were removed, the skin appeared to be broken in 2 or 3 places,” the report said. The worker was referred to a doctor, but nothing more was disclosed.

    4. In Fort Collins, Colo., a worker at a federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention facility found, in January 2004, three broken vials of Russian spring-summer encephalitis virus. Wearing only a laboratory coat and gloves, he used tweezers to remove broken glass and moved the materials to a special container. The virus, a potential bio-warfare agent, could cause brain inflammation and is supposed to be handled in a lab requiring pressure suits that resemble space suits. The report did not say whether the worker became ill.

    Other reports describe leaks of contaminated waste, dropped containers with cultures of bacteria and viruses, and defective seals on airtight containers. Some recount missing or lost shipments, including plague bacteria that was supposed to be delivered to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in 2003. The wayward shipment was discovered eventually in Belgium and incinerated safely.

    The reports must be submitted to regulators whenever a lab suffers a theft, loss or release of any of 72 substances known as “select agents” — a government list of germs and toxins that represent the horror stories of the world’s worst medical tragedies for humans and animals.

    A senior CDC official, Dr. Richard Besser, said his agency is committed to ensuring that U.S. labs are safe and that all such incidents are disclosed to the government. He said he was unaware of any risk to the public resulting from infections among workers at the high-security labs, but he acknowledged that regulators are worried about accidents that could go unreported.

    “If you’re asking if it’s possible for someone to not report an infection, and have it missed, that clearly is a concern that we have,” Besser said.

    Texas A&M’s laboratory failed to report, until this year, one case of a lab worker’s infection from Brucella bacteria last year and three others’ previous infection with Q fever — missteps documented in news reports earlier this year. The illnesses are characterized by high fevers and flu-like symptoms that sometimes cause more serious complications.

    “The major problems at Texas A&M went undetected and unreported, and we don’t think that it was an isolated event,” critic Edward Hammond said. He runs the Sunshine Project, which has tracked incidents at other labs for years and first revealed the Texas A&M illnesses that the school failed to report.

    Rules for working in the labs are tough and are getting more restrictive as the bio-safety levels rise. The highest is Level 4, where labs study substances that pose a “high risk of life-threatening disease for which no vaccine or therapy is available.” Besides wearing full-body, air-supplied suits, workers undergo extensive background checks and carry special identification cards.

     “The risk that a killer agent could be set loose in the general population is real,” Hammond said.

    In other lab accidents recounted in the reports, the Public Health Research Institute in Newark, N.J., was investigated by the FBI in 2005 when it couldn’t account for three of 24 mice infected with plague bacteria. The lab and the CDC concluded the mice were cannibalized by other plague-infested mice or buried under bedding when the cage was sterilized with high temperatures.

    The lab’s director, Dr. David Perlin, told the AP it would be impossible for mice to escape from the building and said a worker failed to record their deaths.

    “I feel 99 percent comfortable that was the case,” Perlin said. “The animals become badly cannibalized. You only see bits and pieces. They’re in cages with shredded newspaper. You really have to search hard with gloves and masks.”

    A worker at the Army’s biological facility in Fort Detrick, Md., was grazed by a needle in February 2004 and exposed to the deadly Ebola virus after a mouse kicked a syringe. She was placed in an isolation ward called “The Slammer,” but the Army said she did not become ill.

    In other previously undisclosed accidents:

    1. In Decatur, Ga., a worker at the Georgia Public Health Laboratory handled a Brucella culture in April 2004 without high-level precautions. She became feverish months later and tested positive for exposure at a hospital emergency room in July. She eventually returned to work. The lab’s confidential report defended her: “The technologist is a good laboratorian and has good technique.”

    2. In April this year at the Loveless facility in Albuquerque, an African green monkey infected intentionally with plague-causing bacteria reached with its free hand and scratched at a Velcro restraining strap, cutting into the gloved hand of a lab worker. The injured worker at the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute received medical treatment, including an antibiotic.

    3. The National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa, reported leaks of contaminated waste three times in November and December 2006. While one worker was preparing a pipe for repairs, he cut his middle finger, possibly exposing him to Brucella, according to the confidential reports.

    4. A researcher at the CDC’s lab in Fort Collins, Colo., dropped two containers on the floor last November, including one with plague bacteria.

    5. A worker at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research-Naval Medical Research Center in Silver Spring, Md., sliced through two pair of gloves while handling a rat carcass infected with plague bacteria. The May 2005 report said she was sent to an emergency room, which released her and asked her to return for a follow-up visit (MSNBC, 2007).

    Title: High-Containment Biosafety Laboratory Safety Breaches A Growing Concern
    Date: October 4, 2007
    Source: Suburban Emergency Management Project

    Abstract: U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) chief technologist Keith Rhodes (Center for Technology and Engineering, Applied Research and Methods, GAO), in his written testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Committee on Energy and Commerce (chair, Democrat John D. Dingell, Michigan, longest-serving member of the House, since 1955), noted that high-containment biosafety laboratories, specifically biosafety levels 3 and 4 (BSL-3 and BSL-4), have been “proliferating” since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. (1)

    BSL-3 and especially BSL-4 often contain the most hazardous biological agents, i.e., “any microorganism (including, but not limited to, bacteria, viruses, fungi, rickettsiae, or protozoa) or infectious substance or any naturally occurring, bioengineered, or synthesized component of any such microorganism or infection substance, capable of causing death, disease, or other biological malfunction in a human, an animal, a plant, or another living organism; deterioration of food, water, equipment, supplies, or material of any kind; or deleterious alteration of the environment.” (2) Examples of biological agents handled in BSL-4 laboratories are the small pox virus (Variola major) and the plague virus (Yersinia pestis). Most hospital laboratories are BSL-2 laboratories.

    The rationale for the House Committee tasking the GAO with the biosafety laboratory investigation was its “increasing concerns…raised about the safety, as well as operations” of high-containment laboratories. House committee members requested answers to three questions (3):

    1. To what extent, and in what areas, has there been an expansion in the number of high-containment labs in the U.S?
    2. Which federal agency is responsible for tracking the expansion of high-containment labs and determining the associated aggregate risks?
    3. What lessons can be learned from recent incidents at high-containment laboratories?

    Rhodes identified two U.S. examples of biosafety laboratory safety/operations issues at the Texas A&M University (TAMU) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) biosafety laboratories.

    Example One: TAMU, College Station, Texas, BSL-3 Laboratory Safety Issues

    TAMU, Texas’ first public institution of higher learning (opened Oct. 4, 1876) and one of a select few academic institutions in the nation to hold triple federal designation as a Land-Grant, Sea-Grant and Space-Grant university, initially received funding from the Department of Homeland Security in 2004 during the ramp up of agro-security programs beyond the Plum Island Animal Disease Center at Orient Point, New York. (4) TAMU’s has several BSL-3 laboratories whose staff work extensively on animal diseases, including those caused by “select agents” Brucella melitensis, Brucella abortus, Brucella suis, and Coxiella burnetii. (5)

    Select agents are a category of hazardous biological agents regulated by the Select Agent Program, whose origins date to the 1990s. (6) The CDC writes: “The CDC regulates the possession, use, and transfer of select agents and toxins that have the potential to pose a severe threat to public health and safety. The CDC Select Agent Program oversees these activities and registers all laboratories and other entities in the United States of America that possess, use, or transfer a select agent or toxin.” (7) A list of regulated select agents is available elsewhere (7)

    Because TAMU worked with select agents, it needed to comply with guidelines published by the Select Agent Program. TAMU belatedly reported a case of human brucellosis that resulted from an accidental exposure when a BSL-3-authorized lab worker, accustomed only to Mycobacterium tuberculosis safety procedures, helped with the operating of the aerosolization chamber in a lab dealing with Brucella (i.e., she was not trained or authorized to be in that lab). (8) The afflicted laboratory worker was correctly diagnosed with brucellosis on April 16, 2006 via the Texas State Public Health Lab. (10) The incident was brought to light through public records requests by Edward Hammond of the Sunshine Project, a watchdog group in Austin Texas. (9) The CDC issued an order to TAMU on April 20, 2007 to “cease and desist all work with select agents and toxins,” as described elsewhere. (10) “In an August 2007 investigation, CDC inspectors found a dozen serious violations, including unapproved experiments, lost samples, improper safety training, and lab workers without select-agent authorization, as described elsewhere. (11)

    Example Two: CDC Clifton Road, Atlanta, BSL-4 Safety Issues

    On June 15, 2007, lightening struck in and around the CDC’s new $214 million infectious disease building on Clifton Road, Atlanta, including the suite of six BSL-4 laboratories, causing a power surge that knocked out power. Remote backup generators never came on. The outage shut down negative air pressure systems, which keep select agents from escaping the containment areas. (12,13) The BSL-4 labs were uninhabited at the time of the lightning strike/power outage even though construction of the building, which had begun in 2001, had been completed in September 2005. (13) Thus, the public and CDC workers were not placed at any risk as a result of the power outage.

    Apparently, construction officials warned CDC since 2001 that its backup power system would not keep crucial lab systems from failing in an outage, according to internal documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.” (14) CDC determined that the cause of the failure of its power system servicing the BSL-4 laboratory suite was that “some time earlier, a critical grounding cable buried in the ground outside the building had been cut by construction workers digging at an adjacent site. The cutting of the grounding cable, which had gone unnoticed by CDC facility managers, compromised the electrical system of the facility that housed the BSL-4 lab.” (15) The irony of the situation is that it happened to CDC just as CDC was censuring TAMU for its BSL-3 safety violations.

    U.S. Expansion of BSL-3 & BSL-4 Laboratories Since 2001

    GAO Keith Rhodes and his colleagues determined that the number of known BSL-4 laboratories in the U.S. has grown from 2 (before 1990) to 3 (1990-2000) to 10 (2001-present), which sum up to 15 known BSL-4 laboratories in U.S., as of 2007. (16) Multiple sectors own and operate these BSL-4 laboratories, i.e., federal government (9 labs), academic (4), state (1), and private (1). The two BSL-4 laboratories that existed in the U.S. in 1990 were the federal labs at the U.S. Army’s Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Fort Detrick, Maryland, and at the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia. Between 1990 and 2000, three new BSL-4 laboratories were constructed at Georgia State University in Atlanta (first university BSL-4 lab), the National Institutes of Health campus in Bethesda, Maryland, and a privately-funded lab in San Antonio, Texas.

    Many more BSL-3 laboratories than BSL-4 laboratories are believed to exist, according to the research performed by Rhodes, et al. The only definitive data available on BSL-3 laboratories, such as the one at TAMU, exists in a federal database (more below) of laboratories handling select agents. This set of labs must register with the CDC-USDA Select Agent Program, as noted above. The number of BSL-3 laboratories currently registered with the Select Agent Program is 1356. Of the 1356, 1042 are registered with CDC and 314 are registered with USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). (17) Two thirds of the registered BSL-3 laboratories are outside of the federal sector.

    According to a survey conducted by the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) in August 2004, since 2001 state public health labs have used public health preparedness funding to build, expand, and enhance BSL-3 labs. In 1998, for example, APHL found that 12 of 38 responding states reported having a state public health laboratory at the BSL-3 level. Today, at least 46 states have at least one state public health BSL-3 lab. (17,18)

    Federal Agency Responsibility for Tracking BSL-3/BSL-4 Expansion/Risks

    “No single federal agency has the mission to track and determine the risk associated with the expansion of BSL-3 and BSL-4 laboratories in the United States, and no single federal agency knows how many such laboratories there are in the United States. Consequently, no one is responsible for determining the aggregate risks associated with the expansion of these high-containment labs,” notes GAO’s Rhodes. (19)

    Lessons Learned about Study of Expansion of BSL-3/BSL-4 Laboratories in the U.S.

    Rhodes’ group from GAO learned six lessons from their investigation of the expansion of high-containment laboratories in the U.S., as described elsewhere. (20) Four of the lessons are that barriers to reporting errors exist, clearer definition of what constitutes an “exposure” to a biologic agent is needed, laboratory workers need more safety training, and physical infrastructure of high-containment labs needs maintenance after being built.

    ConclusionThe U.S. Congress awarded funding to organizations in many sectors to build high-containment laboratories following the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 and the anthrax bioterrorism in October 2001. The goal was laudable: to expand the nation’s preparedness and response capabilities in the face of outbreaks of infectious disease. Insufficient thought, however, appears to have been invested in emplacing mechanisms for measuring and improving the ongoing quality and safety of the new high-containment laboratories (Suburban Emergency Management Project, 2007).

    Title:
    Bio Lab In Galveston Raises Concerns
    Date: October 28, 2008
    Source: New York Times

    Abstract:
    Much of the University of Texas medical school on this island suffered flood damage during Hurricane Ike, except for one gleaming new building, a national biological defense laboratory that will soon house some of the most deadly diseases in the world.

    How a laboratory where scientists plan to study viruses like Ebola and Marburg ended up on a barrier island where hurricanes regularly wreak havoc puzzles some environmentalists and community leaders.

    “It’s crazy, in my mind,” said Jim Blackburn, an environmental lawyer in Houston. “I just find an amazing willingness among the people on the Texas coast to accept risks that a lot of people in the country would not accept.”

    Officials at the laboratory and at the National Institutes of Health, which along with the university is helping to pay for the $174 million building, say it can withstand any storm the Atlantic hurls at it.

    Built atop concrete pylons driven 120 feet into the ground, the seven-floor laboratory was designed to stand up to 140-mile-an-hour winds. Its backup generators and high-security laboratories are 30 feet above sea level.

    “The entire island can wash away and this is still going to be here,” Dr. James W. LeDuc, the deputy director of the laboratory, said. “With Hurricane Ike, we had no damage. The only evidence the hurricane occurred was water that was blown under one of the doors and a puddle in the lobby.”

    The project enjoyed the strong support of three influential Texas Republicans: President Bush, a former Texas governor; Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison; and the former House majority leader, Tom DeLay, whose district includes part of Galveston County. Officials at the National Institutes of Health, however, say the decision to put the lab here was based purely on the merits. It is to open Nov. 11.

    Dr. LeDuc acknowledged that hurricanes would disrupt research. Each time a hurricane approaches the island, scientists will have to stop their experiments and exterminate many of the viruses and bacteria they are studying.

    And Hurricane Ike did not provide the worst-case test the laboratory will someday face, some critics say. Ike’s 100-m.p.h. winds were on the low side for a hurricane, yet it still flooded most of the island’s buildings. The university’s teaching hospital, on the same campus as the lab, has been shut down for more than a month.

    “The University of Texas should consider locating its biohazards lab away from Galveston Island and out of harm’s way,” Ken Kramer, director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, said. “As destructive as it was, Hurricane Ike was only a Category 2 storm. A more powerful storm would pose an even greater threat of a biohazards release.”

    The laboratory is one of two the Bush administration pushed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The second is being built at Boston University Medical Center, where it met stiff community resistance.

    Not so in Texas, where there was hardly a whimper of protest. For starters, the University of Texas Medical Branch is one of the largest employers on the island of 57,000 people.

    In addition, the leaders of the medical school skillfully sold community leaders and politicians on the high-tech safety measures at the lab and on the economic boon to Galveston, an impoverished town in need of the 300 jobs the laboratory would bring.

    University leaders met twice a month with community leaders for several years to dispel fears of pathogens escaping. Then they created a permanent advisory committee of residents that included some of their critics.

    The campaign to win over residents was effective. In 2004, the university built a small laboratory and won federal approval to study extremely lethal pathogens there. The smaller laboratory — named for Dr. Robert E. Shope, a virus expert — helped persuade federal officials it was feasible to erect the national laboratory next to it.

    Nonetheless, some community members remain skeptical about the safety measures.

    “It is not a geographically good location, and the safety measures are only as good as the people who work there,” said Jackie Cole, a former City Council member who now serves on a citizen’s advisory board for the laboratory.

    Other environmentalists who might have fought the project were bogged down in a battle against a liquid natural gas plant that was to be built in Texas City, a refinery town across a narrow channel from the island.

    “It kind of went under the radar,” said Bob Stokes, who heads the Galveston Bay Foundation, a group dedicated to cleaning up water pollution.

    Dr. LeDuc and other scientists at the laboratory say it is almost impossible for diseases to escape. The air pressure in the laboratories is kept lower than in surrounding hallways. Even if the double doors into the laboratories are opened accidentally, air rushes in, carrying pathogens up and away through vents to special filters, which are periodically sterilized with formaldehyde and then incinerated.

    All the laboratory tables have hoods that suck contaminated air through the vents to the filters, as do the rooms themselves. Liquid waste, feces and urine go to tanks on the first floor, where it is heated to a temperature at which nothing can survive before being put into the sewage system.

    Other waste — carcasses of laboratory animals and disposable lab equipment — is sterilized in autoclaves, giant steam-pressure cookers, before being incinerated off site, Dr. LeDuc said.

    When hurricanes threaten the island, researchers will shut down their experiments at least 24 hours before landfall, decontaminate the labs and then move the stocks of deadly pathogens into freezers on upper floors, where they are kept at 70 below zero, Dr. Joan Nichols, an associate director of research, said.

    Even if the emergency power system were to fail, the freezers can keep the samples of killer diseases dormant for about four days, she said.

    The precautions are necessary. The laboratory will do research into some of the nastiest diseases on the planet, among them Ebola, anthrax, tularemia, West Nile virus, drug-resistant tuberculosis, bubonic plague, avian influenza and typhus.

    In the top-level secure laboratories, where deadly filoviruses like Ebola are studied, the scientists work in pressurized spacesuits inside rooms with airtight steel doors. Before leaving the secured area, they take a chemical shower for eight minutes in their suits, then a conventional shower, Dr. LeDuc said.

    The university’s bid for the laboratory benefited from friends in Washington. Mr. DeLay, who resigned from Congress in 2006, pushed hard to bring the project to his district, as did Mrs. Hutchison, who sits on the Appropriations Committee.

    On a visit to Galveston with Mr. Delay in 2005, Mr. Bush said: “This hospital is going to be the Texas center for bioshield research, to help us make sure that our country is well prepared as we engage in the war on terror. No better place, by the way, to do substantial research than right here at the University of Texas.”

    Galveston’s medical school has long had a top-notch faculty in infectious diseases; the school’s proposal beat out bids from the University of California, Davis, the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Wadsworth Center in Albany, among others.

    Dr. Rona Hirschberg, a senior program officer at the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, an agency of the National Institutes of Health, said politics played no role in the decision to build the lab here. The threat of hurricanes was outweighed, she said, by the presence of some of the best virologists in the country, she said.

    “You could put it out in the middle of nowhere and it would be a safe, secure facility,” Dr. Hirschberg, a molecular biologist, said. “But the research wouldn’t get done” (New York Times, 2008).

    Title: Army Suspends Germ Research At Maryland Lab
    Date: February 9, 2009
    Source: New York Times

    Abstract: Army officials have suspended most research involving dangerous germs at the biodefense laboratory at Fort Detrick, Md., which the F.B.I. has linked to the anthrax attacks of 2001, after discovering that some pathogens stored there were not listed in a laboratory database.

    The suspension, which began Friday and could last three months, is intended to allow a complete inventory of hazardous bacteria, viruses and toxins stored in refrigerators, freezers and cabinets in the facility, the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

    The inventory was ordered by the institute’s commander, Col. John P. Skvorak, after officials found that the database of specimens was incomplete. In a memorandum to employees last week, Colonel Skvorak said there was a high probability that some germs and toxins in storage were not in the database.

    Rules for keeping track of pathogens were tightened after the 2001 anthrax letters, which killed five people. But pressure to improve recordkeeping and security at the Army institute intensified six months ago after the suicide of Bruce E. Ivins, a veteran anthrax researcher, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s announcement that prosecutors had been preparing to charge Dr. Ivins with making the deadly anthrax powder in his laboratory there.

    A spokesman for the institute, Caree Vander Linden, said an earlier review had located all the germ samples listed in the database. But she said some “historical samples” in institute freezers were not in the database, and the new inventory was intended to identify them so they could be recorded and preserved, or destroyed if they no longer had scientific value.

    One scientist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment, said samples from completed projects were not always destroyed, and departing scientists sometimes left behind vials whose contents were unknown to colleagues. He said the Army’s recordkeeping and security were imperfect but better than procedures at most universities, where research on biological pathogens has expanded rapidly since 2001.

    The suspension will interrupt dozens of research projects at the institute, whose task is to develop vaccines, drugs and other measures to protect American troops from germ attacks and disease outbreaks. Ms. Vander Linden said some critical experiments involving animals — often used to test vaccines and drugs — would not be halted.

    News of the suspension, first reported Monday by the Science magazine blog ScienceInsider, comes as the Justice Department has been interviewing scientists at the Army institute to prepare the government’s legal defense against a lawsuit filed by the family of Robert Stevens, the Florida tabloid photography editor who was the first to die in the 2001 letter attacks.

    That lawsuit, filed in 2003 and delayed by the government’s unsuccessful efforts to have it dismissed, accuses officials of failing to assure that anthrax bacteria at Fort Detrick and other government laboratories were securely stored. Dr. Ivins was not suspected in the attacks at that time, but the F.B.I.’s conclusion last year added new weight to the lawsuit’s claims.

    The F.B.I. has released evidence of Dr. Ivins’s mental problems and of a genetic link between the mailed anthrax and a supply of the bacteria in his laboratory. But many of Dr. Ivins’s former colleagues at the Army institute have said they are not convinced that he mailed the letters.

    The F.B.I. has asked the National Academy of Sciences to convene a panel of experts to review its scientific work on the case, and the bureau and academy are completing a contract for the review, said an academy spokesman, William Kearney.

    The anthrax case has underscored the threat of biological attack by biodefense insiders like Dr. Ivins, who have access to pathogens and the expertise to work with them.

    The number of such researchers has grown rapidly since 2001, when the anthrax letters set off a spending boom on biodefense that led to a rapid addition of laboratories working on potential bioweapons, notably anthrax.

    Before 2001, only a few dozen such facilities worked with anthrax. Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has registered 219 laboratories to do so, said an agency spokesman, Von Roebuck. He said 10,474 people had been cleared to work with dangerous pathogens and toxins nationwide after background checks by the Justice Department (New York Times, 2009).

    Title: Pennsylvania Bio-Terror Laboratory Fails Inspection
    Date:
    September 7, 2009
    Source:
    HSNW

    Abstract:
    Pennsylvania-based BSL-3 BioLab fails, yet again, a safety inspection; the facility was finished in 2007 but has been beset by an assortment of delays, poor construction, and breakdowns

    Allegheny County’s $5.6 million bio-terror laboratory in Lawrenceville has failed an inspection, delaying once again the opening of the facility that was finished in 2007 but has been beset by an assortment of delays, poor construction, and breakdowns. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that an independent inspector, Larry Milchak, cited the lab for faulty alarms signaling a power failure and poor seals around doors and other areas of the biosafety level-3 lab that could allow contaminated, potentially deadly air to leak out.

    The Allegheny County Health Department has moved workers into other parts of the 10,000-square-foot facility and hopes to have the 500-square-foot “BSL-3” lab fixed, reinspected and operational in time for the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh 24-25 September.

    The BSL-3 laboratory is outfitted with special ventilation systems, equipment, and safety features that allow it to test for bioterror agents like anthrax, plague, and botulism. Passing the inspection allows it to become part of the federal Laboratory Response Network. Although the lab will have the capacity to handle the worst of pathogens, the bulk of its work will involve regular county testing for infectious disease (HSNW, 2009).
    Title: Bio Terror Threat From Germ Labs Worries U.S.
    Date: November 8, 2010
    Source: All Africa

    Abstract: Concerned about the threat of biological terrorism, a powerful US senator will lead a team of high-level Pentagon officials on an inspection tour of Kenyan germ laboratories next week.

    Richard Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will be accompanied by the director of the US Defence Department's Threat Reduction Agency as well as by the heads of units focused on biological defence and global strategy.

    The labs to be inspected are designed for the study of infectious diseases. Work to develop treatments and to help prevent outbreaks also takes place at these facilities.But Pentagon officials warn that the Kenyan labs have not been sufficiently secured against terrorism threats.

    "Deadly diseases like Ebola, Marburg and anthrax are prevalent in Africa," Senator Lugar said in a statement announcing a trip that will take him to Uganda and Burundi as well as to Kenya.

    "Al-Qa'ida and other terrorist groups are active in Africa, and it is imperative that deadly pathogens stored in labs there are secure.

    "These pathogens can be made into horrible weapons aimed at our troops, our friends and allies, and even the American public," the senator added. "This is a threat we cannot ignore."

    Mr Lugar said he has been told by Pentagon chief Robert Gates that the inspection tour will help ensure that the governments of Kenya and Uganda work closely with the United States to secure the labs.The US delegation is scheduled to arrive in Kenya on November 16. A list of the sites the Americans will visit has not been released (All Africa, 2010)

    Title: Can Biosecurity Go Global?
    Date: April 27, 2011
    Source: Miller-McCune

    Abstract: Outside the U.S., biological labs follow few if any security regulations. A Sandia National Laboratory team works to help those labs prevent deadly microbe releases, accidental and deliberate.

    A tall, modest academic with graying temples, Ren Salerno was happily toiling away in obscurity at a small biological threat research program at Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, N.M., “studying issues nobody really cared about,” he recalls. Then the attacks on Sept. 11 burst his academic bubble. As one of the few experts on the security of biological agents, Salerno was called to Washington, where, as soon as he arrived, he met with Deputy Secretary of Agriculture James Moseley, a man with a lot to worry about.

    Some of the greatest bioterror threats are zoonotic pathogens — microbes that can be transmitted from other animals to humans and vice versa, including the plague, anthrax, Ebola and more. According to a 2001 study from researchers at the University of Edinburgh, 61 percent of the more than 1,400 pathogens that infect humans are zoonotic, and U.S. Department of Agriculture animal health laboratories are littered with them. The USDA, in fact, has more biocontainment labs in the U.S. than either the Centers for Disease Control or the National Institutes of Health.

    For days, Washington officials peppered Salerno with questions about national biosecurity infrastructure and the possibility of bio-terrorist attacks, especially with microbes stolen from U.S. facilities. Within a month, Salerno and his team at Sandia had contracts with the USDA to assess and design security solutions for biocontainment labs around the country. Contracts with CDC and the Department of the Army soon followed.

    But the stakes were about to rise again. Only weeks after 9/11, letters containing a suspicious white powder were mailed to media companies and two U.S. senators. People started dying. Bioterrorism was no longer a possibility. It was happening.

    Before 2001, life scientists were familiar with biosafety — that is, working safely — but biosecurity, or keeping laboratory agents from being misused, was not really part of the scientific conversation outside of the military. “The prospect of somebody choosing to misuse biological agents was quite new and fairly controversial,” Salerno says. “The idea of threats and bad guys doing bad things is anathema to most scientists.”

    Following 9/11 and the ensuing anthrax attacks, the Congress worked with what is lightning speed for the government, passing the Patriot Act at the end of 2001, restricting who was allowed to work with biological agents, and the Bioterrorism Act in 2002, improving the government’s ability to prepare for and respond to bioterrorism events. The latter law included a registration program for facilities and people who handle toxins and biological agents — in the U.S.

    But even now, anywhere around the world, someone can build a laboratory to work with the most dangerous pathogens and be subject to no construction standards, no operating standards and no safety or security standards, Salerno says. It’s a situation that several international organizations are trying to address, and Salerno has helped put together trial biosecurity training programs around the world. But so far, the trials have not been expanded or institutionalized.

    “It’s just the beginning, I hope,” Salerno says. “We’re trying to change the paradigm.”

    After the 2001 anthrax maillings and implementation of the federal legislation they spawned, working with bacterial agents in the U.S. became a “major investment in training and infrastructure,” says Paul Keim, a biologist at Northern Arizona University and senior scientist of the lab that identified the anthrax strains used in the 2001 attacks. “A response to the security fears was to raise the biosafety levels, because we didn’t really know how to raise security, because we had no standards,” Keim says.

    Researchers studying anthrax, for example, at biosafety level 2 — which required basic safety precautions like goggles and specialized cabinets with air filters — were suddenly required to fulfill the restrictions of a biosafety level 3 lab. This meant that expensive respiratory equipment, waste decontamination procedures and closed airflow systems were required, suddenly, in hundreds of labs scattered across the country. “It changed so fast; it’s been very difficult to keep up with the regulations,” he says.

    In addition, labs rushed to get security systems. Laboratory managers hired security companies out of the Yellow Pages; they installed locks on doors and windows, put cameras and lights in parking lots and sat security guards at front desks. Many scientists considered the efforts ridiculous and a huge waste of money. If someone broke in, how would the would-be thief know how to identify and transport a pathogen?

    “The likelihood of a terrorist commando team attacking a facility with helicopters and grappling guns is extremely low,” Salerno says, laughing. The probability of a scientist going rogue is significantly higher, but scientists were even less happy to discuss that idea. So when Salerno and his team arrived at lab doorsteps to talk about internal security, they met resistance.

    “This just wasn’t a topic that life scientists thought about,” recalls Jennifer Gaudioso, a staff member at the International Biological Threat Reduction program at Sandia. “You wouldn’t necessarily think about opening a door for someone with an armful of books beforehand, and now you have to stop and think, ‘Should this person be allowed in here?’”

    After an initial evaluation to assess the biological materials in the labs and their basic vulnerabilities, Salerno and the Sandia team — usually three to five members — got down to less glamorous work. With help from human resources personnel, they set up systems to monitor and limit access to the lab, implemented tracking systems to follow the movement of pathogens from room to room and trained lab staffers to look for behavioral changes in colleagues. Overall, Salerno’s team visited dozens of labs around the country. The effort lasted until 2003.

    Then, with the largest national labs secure, Salerno and the U.S. government turned to look beyond the country’s borders.

    Over the last 20 years, as laboratory tools and technologies have become cheaper, biocontainment labs, once rare, have become numerous. Scientists in countries around the world study pathogens of varying levels of danger — and with varying degrees of security.

    For most intents and purposes, international standards or accreditations for bioscience facilities don’t exist. There is a World Health Organization manual on laboratory biosafety that includes tips like, “Children should not be authorized or allowed to enter laboratory working areas,” and, “Labels must not be licked.”

    “Today,” Salerno says, “that 100-page document is just woefully inadequate.”

    International biosecurity standards are important not only for the prevention of deliberate biological attacks but for the reduction of biological accidents. In 2004, nine cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, were linked to procedural lapses at China’s National Institute of Virology. One infected individual died. In 2006, a lab worker at Texas A&M University became sick with brucellosis, an infectious disease carried by cattle and dogs, after cleaning a chamber containing Brucella bacteria. All select-agent research at the school was suspended. In August 2007, some 60 cattle in Surrey, England, were infected with foot-and-mouth disease after the virus leaked from broken pipes running from a nearby infectious disease laboratory. The list goes on.

    “An outbreak anywhere, deliberate or natural, is a threat everywhere,” says Andrew Weber, the assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs. “It’s not something we can just deal with within our own borders.”

    Beginning in 2006, professionals in the biological community, especially biocontainment laboratory managers in North America and Europe, began discussing the need for international standards. In February 2008, the European Committee for Standardization published the first international biorisk management standards, developed by 76 participants from 24 countries. This standard, though still voluntary, includes both bio-security information — guidelines that restrict access to agents and toxins, for instance — and practical biosafety measures, such as details of the process of inventorying and disposing of hazardous materials.

    “It represented an evolution in thought,” says Salerno, who participated in the formation of the guidelines. “The previously distinct fields of biosafety and biosecurity came together.”

    Shortly after the International Biorisk Standards were published, Salerno was contacted by Nicoletta Previsani, head of biosafety and laboratory biosecurity at the World Health Organization in Geneva, about creating a hands-on risk management course to be taught to people involved in biological labs around the world. “Biosafety is not anymore an issue that only concerns the worker at the bench,” Previsani says. “Instead of just teaching biosafety, we thought we needed a different approach that addresses the management of big risks.”

    Biologists are not typically mathematicians or modelers, nor are they taught to assess risk while getting a doctorate in microbiology or virology. “It becomes more of a management problem than simply a technical problem,” Salerno says.

    Previsani corralled Salerno and Stefan Wagener, director for biosafety at the Canadian Science Centre for Human and Animal Health in Winnipeg, Canada, to serve as experts for the course and invited Pamela Lupton-Bowers, a professional adult educator, to integrate teaching techniques. The four professionals locked themselves in a room for five days, and in January 2010, the WHO premiered the first-ever international biosecurity training program. The two-week course trains laboratory leaders in assessing and mitigating the risk of deadly agents in the laboratory. Perhaps more important, the course trains those leaders to train others.

    Workshops were held in Jordan, Ecuador, Sweden, the Maldives, Kenya and Thailand, and participants have already begun teaching biosecurity workshops in their own countries: After attending the WHO course, Rafiq Saleh, head of the public health laboratory at the Ministry of Health in Amman, Jordan, went on to teach two biosecurity courses of his own, training more than 30 lab technicians in Jordan. “We really feel that it’s been useful to our country,” he says.

    Still, Salerno says, the program is limited by numbers. Overall, it has trained just 60 participants, not all of whom have gone on to train others. “If [the course] is a one-time extravaganza, it won’t mean very much because we’ve touched so very few people,” Salerno says. “On the other hand, if the powers that be can recognize it as a precedent-setting, paradigm-shifting event, and can leverage it and build from it explicitly, then I think hopefully five or 10 years from now, we’ll look back on it and say, ‘Wow, that was really formative.’

    “But the jury’s still out on that” (Miller-McCune, 2011).

    Title: How Secure Are Labs Handling World's Deadliest Pathogens?
    Date: February 15, 2012
    Source: Reuters

    Abstract: To reach his office in Galveston National Laboratory, where scientists study deadly pathogens such as the Ebola and Marburg viruses, director James Le Duc swipes his key card at the building's single entrance, which is guarded 24/7 by Texas state police.

    As he walks the hallways, more than 100 closed-circuit cameras watch him. Seven more locked doors stand between him and his destination. Entering a research lab requires another card swipe and, for labs housing especially dangerous microbes, a fingerprint scan.

    To keep deadly viruses from escaping, each lab uses negative air flow and dedicated exhaust systems. Workers wear full-body air-supplied suits. To test its security, Galveston ran an exercise with the Federal Bureau of Investigation simulating a would-be intruder and another, with the University of Texas, war-gaming a campus shooter. The facility passed both tests.

    Galveston's strict security underlines a little-known fact about hundreds of labs working with bacteria and viruses that could make the 1918-19 Spanish flu epidemic - when as many as 40 million people died - seem like a summer cold. Many of the precautions it takes are not required by law.

    "A lock on the door is the only specified requirement," said Rutgers University virologist Richard Ebright. "There is no explicit requirement for guards, bio-identity checks, or video monitoring like 7-Elevens have. The rules require very strict paperwork but no real physical security."

    Labs whose experiments on dangerous pathogens are funded by the U.S. government must follow specific rules to keep the microbes from escaping, but those rules are not enforceable for researchers working with private funds. Outside the country, security and safety requirements vary widely, experts say.

    "It's all subject to interpretation," said a scientist close to the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, which monitors research that might pose a bioterrorism threat.

    If a lab receiving U.S. government funding violates the guidelines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can cut off the flow of money, "but it can't shut you down," the scientist said. "I don't have a lot of confidence in our biosafety right now."

    Immediate Concern Over Bird Flu Research

    Questions about biosafety - keeping dangerous microbes from escaping labs - and biosecurity - keeping out bad actors intent on releasing or stealing the pathogens - are front and center for global health officials due to a growing controversy over experiments with the bird flu virus.

    Scientists and government officials will meet on Thursday and Friday at the World Health Organization in Geneva to hash out the safest way to deal with the studies and address fears that lab-engineered viruses could either escape or be used as a bioterror weapon.

    Last year, labs at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Erasmus MC in Rotterdam independently created mutant forms of avian influenza, known as H5N1, that can be transmitted directly among mammals. The natural strain can be caught only through close contact with infected birds.

    One immediate question is what level of safety should be required for that research. So far, it has been conducted at biosafety-level 3 labs. Under U.S. guidelines, BSL-3 applies to agents that cause "serious or lethal disease" but do not ordinarily spread between people and for which treatments or preventives exist. BSL-4 applies to agents with no preventives or treatment.

    The Wisconsin and Erasmus scientists received approval to conduct their experiments under BSL-3 conditions because, they argued, antiviral drugs can treat avian flu. Erasmus was subject to U.S. guidelines because its experiments were funded by the National Institutes of Health.

    "The viruses generated here are sensitive to influenza antivirals" so they fit the BSL-3 criteria, said Rebecca Moritz of the University of Wisconsin's Office of Biological Safety. There are "multiple physical barriers and the facilities are monitored at all times."

    All lab workers there wear disposable jumpsuits and powered respirators in addition to scrubs, shoes, shoe covers, and double gloves, she said. Each time scientists leave the lab, they must remove their protective equipment and shower before putting on their street clothes. Erasmus does the same.

    The labs said they have emergency and security plans for a wide variety of threats. Neither would provide specifics on those security measures on the grounds the details could aid any would-be attackers.

    Such precautions are not foolproof, however. According to a 2009 report by the Government Accountability Office, there were 400 accidents at BSL-3 labs in the United States in the previous decade.

    Some scientists therefore argue that the experiments creating contagious H5N1 mutants should be done only at BSL-4 facilities.

    "An escape would still produce the worst pandemic in history," said Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota and a member of the NSABB, at a symposium at the New York Academy of Sciences this month.

    "The risk of this agent, if in fact it can be readily transmitted between humans, is catastrophic," he told Reuters. "Until we know how this virus actually acts in humans, I think you have no choice but to move this (research) to BSL-4."

    Space Suits

    BSL-4 labs, like the one in Galveston, have all the BSL-3 precautions and are also in isolated facilities with dedicated exhaust, vacuum, and other systems to prevent escape. In addition, workers must wear what are essentially space suits.

    But the BSL guidelines relate to biosafety, not security.

    The debate over H5N1 experiments has also raised the question of how secure BSL-3 and BSL-4 labs are. It has assumed a greater urgency as the number of known U.S. BSL-3 labs has surged from 415 in 2004 to 1,495 in 2010.

    Hundreds or thousands of BSL-3 laboratories may be unknown, however, because "no federal agency is required to track the number of biocontainment labs," found a 2011 report by the National Research Council, an arm of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

    Globally, BSL-3 labs have recently been built or are under construction in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, China, Brazil, and Mexico, among others, the NRC found. Yet "many countries have few or no regulations," the NRC concluded.

    BSL-4 labs are also proliferating. A 2011 workshop in Istanbul organized by the NRC was told that there are 24 BSL-4 facilities, including in Germany, Gabon, Sweden, Russia, South Africa and Canada. The United States has six, including Le Duc's, which is part of the University of Texas Medical Branch.

    "We are now in a proliferation race for BSL-3 and 4 labs," said Laurie Garrett, the senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. "Having such a facility is a mark of national sophistication. But the spread of these labs allows the unfettered proliferation of the world's most dangerous microbes."

    Indeed, deadly microbes have escaped high-security labs. Between 1978 and 1999, just over 1,200 people acquired infections from BSL-4 labs around the world; 22 were fatal. Since then, lab workers have been killed by Ebola and SARS, or severe acquired respiratory syndrome. Thieves tried to steal animal pathogens from an Indonesian lab in 2007, the NRC workshop was told.

    Guidelines, Not Law

    U.S. research on dangerous human pathogens must follow safety guidelines set by the CDC. They may or may not be followed at labs elsewhere in the world, concluded the NRC workshop.

    In part, that is because BSL-3 and BSL-4 designations "have very wide interpretations," said Ren Salerno, senior manager for cooperative threat reduction programs at Sandia National Laboratories, part of the U.S. Department of Energy.

    Although U.S. government-funded research must adhere to biosafety guidelines, they "do not have the force of law," said Ebright. "If you're a private lab, privately funded, there is no requirement that you comply." The CDC declined to make a spokesperson available to discuss biosafety and biosecurity.

    Many labs in developing countries say they adhere to guidelines as tough as those applied to U.S. facilities. If they receive U.S. funding, lab personnel must pass an FBI security risk assessment, for instance.

    In Thailand, police check the background of all staff members and require fingerprints to access freezers containing microbes.

    A BSL-4 lab in Australia employs a security staff of 10. It is housed in a fenced, isolated building and has infrared cameras to detect intruders. Gabon's BSL-4 lab is surrounded by electric fences and has a guard on duty at all times. Only three people know the code to the freezer holding Ebola.

    U.S. biosecurity requirements are laid out in the 2001 Patriot Act, which says that facilities storing "select agents" - microbes and toxins that could be used as bioweapons - must develop and implement a plan to keep them secure. Such labs must also provide the government the names of everyone with access to the pathogens; none can be on a terrorism watch list.

    Experts dismiss Hollywood's nightmare scenarios such as bombing a BSL-4 lab or crashing a 737 jumbo jet into one.

    "The one nice thing about pathogens is that they'll self-destruct under intense heat," said Salerno.

    What Salerno does give credence to is either an accidental escape or a plot to steal a pathogen by lab employees acting on their own or under duress.

    "As more of this kind of research occurs, and it will, especially internationally, the risks of both accidental release or potential theft and misuse will increase as well," Salerno said. "The science is way ahead of governments' ability to regulate the science" (Reuters, 2012).

    Title: Lack Of Security At Labs Handling World's Deadliest Pathogens Could Lead To Epic Pandemic
    Date: February 20, 2012
    Source: Natural News

    Abstract: The mainstream media appears to be priming the public consciousness once again for the inevitable release of a highly-deadly pathogen in the very near future. A recent Reuters report explains that many of the world's biosafety level-3 (BSL-3) and biosafety level-4 (BSL-4) laboratories, which house some of the deadliest pathogens in existence, may not be as safe and secure as people think they are because federal regulations technically require nothing more than a single locked door at such facilities as a security measure.

    According to the report, some labs voluntarily employ rigorous safety and security measures, including the Galveston National Laboratory in Texas, which is a highly-protected complex with at least eight levels of secured entry, closed-circuit video monitoring, and negative air flow and dedicated exhaust systems to prevent the accidental release of deadly pathogens. But many other such labs do not have this same tight level of a security, as federal law does not regulate the safety protocols used by private research labs.

    "Galveston's strict security underlines a little-known fact about hundreds of labs working with bacteria and viruses that could make the 1918-19 Spanish flue epidemic -- when as many as 40 million people died -- seem like a summer cold," says the report. "Many of the precautions it takes are not required by law."

    Will the militarized H5N1 avian flu strain be 'accidentally' released from an unsecured BSL facility?

    The report conveniently comes just a few months after it was first announced that scientists in Europe had deliberately created a weaponized H5N1 avian bird flu strain capable of spreading between humans (http://www.naturalnews.com/034228_bioterrorism_flu_strain.html). And since that announcement, there has been a lot of chatter about whether or not the results of this creation should be published in scientific journals, and what the likelihood is that this vicious strain will someday get released into the wild where it could kill off populations around the world at pandemic levels.

    The stage is being set, in other words, for the "accidental" release of one of these pathogens at some point in the future, upon which there will be a host of scapegoats to blame. And since all this private research being conducted on deadly viral and bacterial strains at private BSL-3 and BSL-4 labs around the world is apparently not much of a security concern to the federal government, it appears that it is only a matter of time before something catastrophic occurs.

    There are also few specifics on the types of research that must be conducted in BSL-4 labs versus BSL-3 labs, which means that the deadly new H5N1 mutant strain can technically be conducted at either, even though BSL-3 labs are intended for less-serious bacterial and viral strains. This is highly concerning because, according to a 2009 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, there were 400 accidents at BSL-3 labs just in the U.S. alone that year (Natural News, 2012).

    Title: More Than 200 Mishaps Reported At Fort Detrick In 2010, 2011
    Date: March 14, 2012
    Source: Bio Prep Watch


    Abstract:  The more than 200 mishaps reported at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in 2010 and 2011 will be used to determine safer practices at the labs in the future.

    The number of incidents was up from 2009, when 64 mishaps were reported, and from 2008, when 42 cases were filed. The increased number of reports was partly the result of an institutional change to more effectively assess the effectiveness of the lab’s personal protective equipment. More reports gives the facility more data with which to track trends, the Frederick News Post reports.

    In one 2010 incident, an employee was infected with Western equine encephalitis, which can cause flu-like symptoms, brain swelling, coma and death. The employee was infected when opening vials under a hood using a special filter and ventilation system. The employee realized the error, applied a fixative, decontaminated the lab and notified the appropriate personnel.

    “The division held a safety stand-down day to reinforce handling and processing of viruses between laboratories,” a safety officer said in the report, according to the Frederick News Post. “Individual who was involved has been removed from the laboratory pending review and assessment of abilities.”

    The labs have been under major scrutiny since Bruce Ivins, an Army researcher who worked in USAMRIID labs, committed suicide in 2008 after he was accused of being responsible for sending the deadly 2001 anthrax letters.

    The researchers report everything from being rear-ended on the way to work to tears in protective wear. Reports relating to the lab specifically lead to changes in procedure and equipment.

    “The important thing is that people are making reports because that’s how we make sure that change occurs,” W. Emmett Barkley, the president of Proven Practices LLC, said, according to the Frederick News Post. “I think the culture is that if you do something wrong, if something happens, if a piece of equipment breaks, it’s important to report that. It’s part of the process for developing safe science” (Bio Prep Watch, 2012).

    Title: Inspection Raises Biosafety Concerns In Asia-Pacific Containment Labs
    Date: May 24, 2012
    Source:
    BioPrepWatch

    Abstract: A recent anonymous inspection of biocontainment laboratories in developing counties in the Asia-Pacific region has raised concerns among experts because of the significant number of deficiencies it found in biosafety protocols and equipment.

    An examination of dozens of labs revealed that nearly one-third of the hoods used to protect researchers from deadly pathogens did not function as intended. In one instance, only a shower curtain enclosed a table used routinely to dissect the brains of rabid animals, according to Nature.

    A group of bio-risk experts recently met in London’s Chatham House to discuss the growing concern. They said that if such deficiencies were found in Western labs, those labs would not be allowed to operate, but in parts of the developing world, the results of the inspection are a symptom of a potential biosafety crisis.

    “The strength of a chain is based on its weakest link, and developing countries are the weakest link,” Teck-Mean Chua, the former president of the Asia-Pacific Biosafety Association based in Singapore, said, Nature reports.

    As Western scientists begin to place an increasing emphasis on bioafety concerns, the complaints about inadequate laboratory protocol in the developing world are beginning to attract attention.

    Nigel Lightfoot, an associate fellow at the Center on Global Health Security at Chatham House, said that stringent biosafety procedures and expensive equipment are often unworkable in developing countries, where scientists need to work with deadly pathogens in order to protect public health but lack critical infrastructure needs.

    “When you don’t have any electricity, the answer is not to build a very high-security laboratory,” Lightfoot said, Nature reports. “You’ve got to move away from the costly bells-and-whistles solutions to what is practical.”

    Lightfoot said that it may be necessary to create dual standards, an idea that some believe will not sit well with Western scientists who feel over-burdened with regulations, as well as with scientists in the developing world who feel they could be left with unsafe labs (BioPrepWatch, 2012)

    Title: Shelf Collapse Prompts Hazmat Call At Institute For Genomic Biology
    Date: May 29, 2012
    Source:
    The News-Gazette

    Abstract: One person received minor injuries on Monday night after being splashed with chemicals that were sent falling after a shelf collapsed in a third-floor laboratory storage area inside the Institute for Genomic Biology.

    That man rinsed off in a safety shower, was checked out in a decontamination area, and refused medical treatment, said UI police Lt. Todd Short. The mixing of chemicals that resulted from the collapse prompted a hazardous-materials warning from the University of Illinois.

    The materials release, which happened just before 10 p.m., was confined to the one lab. The Urbana Fire Department was on the scene until about 2:20 a.m. Tuesday working with the UI Division of Research Safety to clean the affected area, Short said.

    The building was declared safe enough to open for business Tuesday and a private contractor, hired by the UI, was expected to remove the remains of the cleanup. 

    Urbana Division Chief Brian Nightlinger said fire officials were quickly able to identify five of the chemicals "but after they broke, we weren't sure of what all they were."

    "All were solvent-based," he said, meaning flammable. They were in four-liter bottles in a storage closet. Nightlinger said people working in the lab immediately knew of the spill. He was not certain how many people were in the building but said firefighters sounded alarms in the building twice to make sure everyone was out. There are people working there around the clock, he said.

    Given the chemical cocktail the firefighters were facing, Nightlinger said they chose the most cautious response.

    "We used the fully encapsulated suits with air. The guys look like they were walking on the moon," he said. 

    Two suited firefighters go in at a time and work for up to an hour - the amount of oxygen they have - while two suited wait on the outside to relieve them or rescue them if something should go wrong, Nightlinger explained.

    Nightlinger said fire officials set up a decontamination area outside the building, standard protocol in a hazardous materials spill. The area's hazardous material decontamination truck, stored at Champaign's Windsor Road fire station, was there as was a hazardous materials trailer.

    Firefighters routinely train on campus to handle just the kind of situation they faced Monday night. Nightlinger said lab personnel, the building manager, the department head and the chemical safety people from the UI all huddled with firefighters to decide the best way to handle the situation. UI police cordoned off the area.

    According to the institute's website, researchers there study areas including bioenergy, climate change, regenerative medicine, drug development, and understanding cancer at the cellular level.

    Officials sent out an Illini-Alert warning people to escape the area of the institute, which is at 1206 W. Gregory Dr. in Urbana. The UI sent an alert at 11:10 p.m. saying that spill had been contained inside the building and the area outside the building was safe. The UI sent another alert at 11:28 p.m. to say the building had been safely evacuated and that firefighters were "mitigating the hazard," emphasizing the area around the building was still safe. 

    "If we think there's an imminent threat to health, life or safety, we're going to push out an Illini-Alert immediately," Short said.

    He said UI police did not know the extent of the chemical release when they first heard of the spill and would rather take the more cautious approach. The first alert urged people to "escape" the area.

    "Without knowing the circumference of this hazmat release, we sent the whole kit and caboodle," Short said.

    It was the second Illini-Alert officials sent out within 24 hours after a reported shooting prompted an alert early Monday morning. It turned out that the shooter had inflicted a gunshot wound on himself.

    "I'm not taking a chance," Short said. "If there's someone who's hit, I'm not taking the chance" (The News-Gazette, 2012)

    Title: Airflow Problems Plague CDC Bioterror Lab
    Date: June 12, 2012
    Source:
    USA Today

    Abstract: A $214 million bioterror germ lab at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has had repeated problems with airflow systems designed to help prevent the release of infectious agents, government documents and internal e-mails show.

    While the agency says no one has been infected, a biosafety expert says the problems appear to be major violations of laboratory operating standards.

    The area of the building with problems involves Biosafety Level 3 labs that can be used for experiments involving anthrax, dangerous strains of influenza, the SARS coronavirus, monkeypox and other microbes that have the potential to be used as bioweapons.

    In February, air from inside a potentially contaminated lab briefly blew outward into a "clean" corridor where a group of visitors weren't wearing any protective gear which raised concern about exposure risks, according to e-mails reporting and discussing what happened. Research animals in the lab had not yet been infected at the time of the incident, the records say.

    CDC engineers have raised written concerns about the air containment systems since at least 2010. At that time, scientists working with poxviruses, such as monkeypox, expressed concerns about airflow and said they "don't want to go into that facility because they don't feel comfortable with the way it is currently designed," according to minutes from a February 2010 meeting to discuss reversing the way air flowed through the labs and animal-holding areas.

    According to the minutes, CDC safety manager William Howard said: "Bottom line is we can't continue to operate the building the way it is … if (a bioterror lab inspector) finds out air is moving this direction they will shut this place down."

    The CDC refused to grant interviews or answer any questions submitted in writing about the problems inside the high-containment labs and animal-holding area of the agency's 11-story Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory, also known as CDC Building 18.

    In a statement, the CDC said there have been no releases of germs and no one has been injured. Experiments in the building's high-containment labs are "done in an environment with highly skilled staff, technical equipment, and safety systems that unfortunately, at times, experience challenges. Fortunately, this unique facility has multiple systems in place that provide appropriate redundancy, so when there is an incident, the public's safety, as well as worker safety, is not compromised." The agency said it always takes "appropriate steps" to address incidents when they occur, but provided no details.

    BSL-3 labs are required under federal safety guidelines to have "sustained directional airflow by drawing air into the laboratory from 'clean' areas toward 'potentially contaminated' areas."

    The airflow system is designed to protect against the release of microbes, especially those that have the potential to become airborne and infect workers who could spread disease in the community.

    The CDC is responsible for inspecting its own labs, as part of a federal program where it also oversees labs nationwide that work with germs or toxins that could potentially be used as bioweapons.

    Rutgers University biosafety expert Richard Ebright said excerpts of CDC documents provided to him by USA TODAY "raise serious concerns. There appear to be significant irregularities." The problems seem to be the type that CDC's inspectors "would flag as major violations in inspections of non-CDC facilities," Ebright said.

    The same lab building, which opened in 2005 and was touted by the agency as the world's most advanced laboratory, made news in 2007 when backup generators didn't work to keep airflow systems working during a power outage, then again in 2008 for a high-containment lab door that was being sealed with duct tape. The duct tape was applied after a 2007 incident where a ventilation system malfunctioned and pulled potentially contaminated air out of the lab and into a "clean" hallway; nine CDC workers were tested for potential exposure to Q fever bacteria. None were infected.

    Most CDC staff quoted in the documents obtained by USA TODAY referred questions to the agency's press office or did not respond to requests for interviews.

    Anthony Sanchez, the building's high-containment lab manager, in a brief interview said that although no building is perfect, "the scientists are happy with the facility … It is safe, and we have highly professional persons working in there, and they don't have anything to worry about." Sanchez added: "I think the American public has gotten its money worth, and more."

    The records show that other CDC staff have expressed safety concerns.

    The CDC "will do anything … to hide the fact that we have serious problems with the airflow and containment in this whole building," wrote CDC animal resources biologist Kismet Scarborough in an April 9 e-mail to several agency officials, including CDC Director Thomas Frieden. Scarborough's CDC voice-mail greeting describes her position as a high-containment lab manager for the agency's Animal Resources Branch.

    Scarborough, e-mails indicate, was a witness to the Feb. 16 incident. where air blew out of a potentially contaminated BSL-3 lab into a "clean" corridor.

    Another witness was Eddie Jackson, a biologist and inspector with CDC's Division of Select Agents and Toxins - the arm of CDC that is responsible for inspecting U.S. labs that work with bioterror germs. Jackson e-mailed a top CDC safety official the day the incident happened. Jackson described how he was part of an escorted group standing outside the door of a lab when an animal technician inside opened an interior door to an animal room. "As the door closed a very noticeable puff of air could be felt coming through the slit in the window out into the 'clean' corridor."

    Jackson noted in his e-mail that Scarborough told him the room didn't house infected animals at the moment, but there is a room with infected animals on the same corridor. He asked whether there is any risk of exposure for people walking down the hallway without respiratory protection. "Don't know whether this was a fluke or the norm, and the reason I'm commenting is one of the visitors seemed concerned and has been talking about it since we've come back," Jackson wrote.

    It is unknown what answer Jackson received to his question. According to Scarborough's April 9 e-mail, CDC safety officials dismissed concerns about the incident saying "it doesn't matter if the dirty BSL 3 lab blows positive into the clean corridor as long as it is not sustained." Scarborough called this a "totally ridiculous response" and wrote that she is "horrified and dismayed at the events surrounding safety and the fact that even though this has been taken clear up the chain of command all the way to Dr. Frieden, no one is willing to admit the mistake or more importantly fix it."

    The mistake Scarborough appears to reference is a decision CDC implemented around late 2010 to re-engineer the air movement within these labs and nearby animal-holding areas. CDC engineers warned in early 2010 that reversing the airflow in this area could have "unintended consequences," including back-washing dirty air into clean areas when doors are opened and closed.

    According to presentation slides for a February 2010 meeting about reversing the airflow in the lab and animal areas, CDC engineers Karen Moss and Tom Blanchard wrote that with the proposed changes "the potential exists to create large airflow disturbances, vortices and flow mixing between corridor and rooms will result, rooms may become same pressure as dirty corridor." If the airflow is going to be reversed, they wrote, anterooms - with negative air pressure - would need to be built to preserve airflow integrity.

    The records indicate that CDC never built the anterooms, in part because of concerns about cost and time delays, and because some safety officials questioned whether they were necessary.

    In a February 2010 e-mail, Blanchard proposed sending a bluntly worded memo to the agency's safety office warning that reversing the airflows in the lab area "represents an extreme departure from the existing design and operation" and that the change will result in "no safeguards against flow disturbances." It noted that there was not universal acceptance of "such a radical change" by those involved in the building, including animal staff and researchers working with tuberculosis.

    After the air was reversed, air pressure problems developed in some areas resulting in fire code violations. Under certain circumstances, the pressure needed to open doors that scientists and other workers would need to escape through in an emergency is more than three times what the fire code allows, according to a contractor's report from December 2010 and an e-mail from Moss in January 2011.

    The report noted: "Also, on some doors the excessive negative pressure prevented the release of the electronic security latch as commanded by the card reader; it was necessary to push/pull the door inward/outward before turning the handle and opening the door." CDC assumed responsibility for reopening the lab area with the "known code violation" and was going to begin work to address it, the contractor's report said. The CDC wouldn't say whether the problem has been fixed (USA Today, 2012)

    Title: Airflow Issues Persist At CDC Bioterror Germ Lab
    Date: June 14, 2012
    Source:
    BioPrepWatch

    Abstract: A major bioterror laboratory at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has run into repeated airflow system issues, according to internal emails and government documents.

    The CDC said that there have been no germ releases and no one has been hurt, Associated Press reports.

    The airflow systems in the $214 million facility are meant to prevent the release of infectious agents such as anthrax, pathogenic influenza, monkeypox and other pathogens that could be used as biological weapons.

    In one incident in February, air from a potentially contaminated lab briefly blew into a corridor where visitors weren’t wearing any protective gear.

    “Fortunately, this unique facility has multiple systems in place that provide appropriate redundancy, so when there is an incident, the public’s safety, as well as worker safety, is not compromised,” a CDC statement said, according to Associated Press.

    Richard Ebright, a Rutgers University biosafety expert, said that the problems revealed in the documents seem to be major laboratory operating standard violations.

    “(The CDC documents) raise serious concerns,” Ebright said, according to USA Today. “There appear to be significant irregularities. (The CDC’s own inspectors) would flag (these) as major violations in inspections of non-CDC facilities.”

    The CDC inspects its own labs and oversees work throughout the nation relating to toxins or germs that have potential bioterror use (BioPrepWatch, 2012)

    Title: Congress Investigates Air Leak, Possible Safety Lapses At CDC Lab
    Date: June 22, 2012
    Source:
    CNN

    Abstract:  It's a highly secured, sophisticated research lab studying deadly diseases such as bird flu, monkeypox, tuberculosis and rabies.

    It's in a facility called Building 18, which cost taxpayers $214 million.

    And now, the Biosafety Level 3 lab at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta is also the subject of a congressional investigation after a potentially dangerous airflow leak at that lab, CNN has learned.

    The leak occurred on February 16, when air flowed the wrong way out of a germ lab into a clean-air corridor, rather than through the powerful HEPA filter that cleans the air, congressional sources and CDC officials said. Visitors touring the facility were in the clean corridor when they observed a puff of air being pushed out from the lab through a slot in a door window.

    If experiments had been under way at the time of that air leak, experts say, unprotected visitors could have been exposed to deadly germs, although an epidemic would have been unlikely.

    According to U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, a Texas Republican and a medical doctor, the House Energy and Commerce Committee has asked the CDC for documents about that incident. The request came in the wake of a report on internal CDC e-mails about the incident, first reported by USA Today last week.

    "The biggest concern was that there was a contingent of visitors who were walking through the building," Burgess said. "And had one of those people been stricken or made ill or worse, obviously that would have been devastating."

    The lab handles small mammals such as rats, ferrets and mice as part of its experiments with pathogens, according to CDC officials. They say animals were in the lab at the time of the air leak, but they were secured in filtered cages.

    CDC officials say the lab was clean, was not active at the time, and no one got infected.

    "At no time during recent incidents featured in the media were CDC workers or the public in harm's way," agency spokesman Tom Skinner said. "This unique facility features multiple security layers specifically designed to protect workers and the public in the event of an incident."

    In a statement released to CNN, Burgess' committee said, "We will actively work to find out if there are additional concerns or incidents associated with Building 18. Any anomaly or breach is of concern, and we will work to ensure the integrity of the facility is maintained and that our scientists are safe."

    There has been at least one other safety-related incident in that same building where February's air leak occurred.

    In 2008, it was discovered that a high-containment lab door was sealed with duct tape. That incident was first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and confirmed to CNN by Skinner.

    Robert Hawley, former safety chief at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, said the CDC has many safety layers in place at its labs. Hawley says researchers at the Biosafety Level 3 lab work in biosafety "cabinets" within the lab itself.

    "Nothing is handled outside that cabinet," Hawley said. "So they're working with minute amounts of material, and the chances of aerosol are negligible."

    But there are questions about a possible cover-up.

    In an internal e-mail, reported by USA Today, CDC biologist Kismet Scarborough said the centers "... will do anything ... to hide the fact that we have serious problems with the airflow and containment in this whole building."

    CNN has not been able to independently verify that e-mail. But in response, Skinner said, "CDC will continue to take an open, transparent and inclusive approach to address any safety challenge in a manner that will ensure the safety of our workforce and the public."

    Skinner said the agency "intends to cooperate fully with Rep. Burgess and the committee to address any questions they may have about Building 18 at CDC" (CNN, 2012)

    Title: CDC Considers Outside Checks On Bioterror Labs
    Date: June 25, 2012
    Source:
    USA Today

    Abstract: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering having 
    U.S. Army scientists or another outside agency inspect its bioterror labs in the wake of a USA TODAY report this month.
    The agency plans to install safety equipment to address fire code violations from December 2010 that could trap workers in an emergency, an agency spokesman said Monday.

    USA TODAY reported that the agency's $214 million Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory in Atlanta has had repeated problems with airflow systems designed to prevent the release of infectious agents. The lab, also called Building 18, has a secure, high-containment block where experiments can be done on anthrax, monkeypox, dangerous strains of flu and other agents that have the potential to be used as bioterror weapons.

    Monday, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee launched a bipartisan investigation and sent the CDC a letter calling for documents and e-mails relating to safety issues in the lab building to be submitted by July 6. The committee is investigating whether the CDC is complying with federal lab safety requirements.

    CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said the agency is considering having an outside agency examine safety and security at its lab buildings "to see if there's anything we can and should be doing to make our program even better than it already is." Possible outside agencies include the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) or the lab safety arm of Health Canada, Skinner said. Currently, the CDC inspects itself.

    "I can understand how some feel that CDC overseeing itself is a conflict of interest," Skinner said. But he said the agency has a 66-year record of operating labs safely, including Building 18. He said tens of thousands of hours of scientific work have been done in Building 18 without any incidents of infectious agents being released or anybody being sickened. "We have an extraordinary track record for that building as far as safety goes," he said.

    Richard Besser, former head of the CDC's Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response, raised concerns June 13 about the CDC's self-policing in an ABC News report about Building 18's airflow problems. "Laboratory safety is not an area where you want to have this much self-policing. … There is clearly an appearance of conflict of interest in having the inspection program at CDC given the number of laboratories housed within the agency," said Besser, who is the network's chief health and medical editor. Besser was unavailable for an interview.

    Building 18, which opened in 2005, has had a series of safety incidents involving airflow systems since at least 2007. In February, air from inside a potentially contaminated lab briefly blew outward into a "clean" corridor where visitors weren't wearing any protective gear, which raised concern about exposure risks, according to e-mails obtained by USA TODAY. Research animals in the lab had not been infected at the time of the incident, the records say.

    CDC engineers have raised written concerns about the air-containment systems since at least 2010. One concern was that negative air pressure could make it difficult for workers to escape in an emergency, requiring three times more force to open a door than the fire code allows.

    Skinner said Monday that until recently, officials in the agency's safety office believed the doors weren't in violation because of their interpretation of the fire code.

    The CDC is looking for ways to address the problem, including potentially installing emergency crash bars to help open the doors and further educating employees about the problem. Skinner said the issue involves about three of more than 20 doors in the high-containment lab area.

    Monday's letter from the House Energy and Commerce Committee was signed by Rep.Fred Upton, R-Mich., the committee chairman; and Reps. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations; and Michael Burgess, R-Texas, vice chairman of the health subcommittee. It also is signed by Reps. Henry Waxman of California, the ranking Democrat on the committee; and Diana DeGette of Colorado, the ranking Democrat on the oversight subcommittee.

    "The recent reports of potential safety lapses at one of the CDC's most sensitive biolabs are of tremendous concern," Stearns said. "It is troubling that the integrity of this $214 million facility could be in question, and we must do all that we can to ensure our scientists are safe. Even one incident is too many at Building 18" (USA Today, 2012)

    Title: U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Letter To CDC 
    Date: June 25, 2012
    Source:
    U.S. House of Reps (PDF)

    Abstract: See PDF  
    (U.S. House of Reps, 2012)

    Title: USA Today Report Launches Investigation Into CDC Bioterror Labs
    Date: June 26, 2012
    Source:
    BioPrepWatch

    Abstract: The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is considering having U.S. Army scientists or another outside agency inspect its bioterror labs after USA Today issued a report on the safety of the labs this month.

    After an investigation into the agency’s $214 million Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory in Atlanta, USA Today reported problems with airflow systems, as well as fire code violations. The lab, also called Building 18, conducts experiments on such agents as anthrax, monkeypox and dangerous strains of the flu, among others, Tucson Citizen reports.

    The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee is also launching an investigation into the safety of the lab. The CDC, which currently inspects itself, is considering inspection by outside agencies such as the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases or the lab safety arm of Health Canada.

    The CDC has “an extraordinary track record for that building as far as safety goes,” CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said, according to Tucson Citizen.

    Building 18, which opened in 2005, has had a series of safety incidents involving airflow systems since at least 2007. CDC engineers are also concerned that negative air pressure could make it difficult for workers to escape in an emergency, requiring three times more
    force to open a door than the fire code allows. The CDC is looking for ways to address the problem
    (BioPrepWatch, 2012).

    Title: CDC Mulls Outside Inspections On Bioterror Laboratories
    Date: June 27, 2012
    Source:
    BioPrepWatch

    Abstract: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering using U.S. Army scientists or a different outside agency to inspect its bioterror labs to address airflow system issues.

    The agency’s Emerging Infectious Disease Laboratory in Atlanta has experienced multiple problems with its airflow systems that are meant to prevent infectious agents from getting released. The lab includes a high-containment block for experiments on monkeypox, dangerous flu strains and anthrax, USA Today reports.

    The CDC also plans to address fire code violations from December 2010 by installing safety equipment to prevent workers from being trapped because of negative air pressure during an emergency.

    The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to the CDC on Monday calling for e-mails and documents related to safety problems in the lab as part of a bipartisan investigation.

    “I can understand how some feel that CDC overseeing itself is a conflict of interest,” Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the CDC, said, according to USA Today. “(An outside agency could) see if there’s anything we can and should be doing to make our program even better than it already is. We have an extraordinary track record for that building as far as safety goes.”

    Outside agencies that could inspect the facilities in lieu of the CDC include the lab safety arm of Health Canada and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

    In February, air from a potentially contaminated laboratory briefly blew into a clean corridor where visitors weren’t protected by any gear, raising questions about exposure risks.

    “The recent reports of potential safety lapses at one of the CDC’s most sensitive biolabs are of tremendous concern,” Cliff Stearns, a Republican representative of Florida and the chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, said, according to USA Today. “It is troubling that the integrity of this $214 million facility could be in question, and we must do all that we can to ensure our scientists are safe. Even one incident is too many at Building 18” (BioPrepWatch, 2012)

    Title: Security Lapses Found At CDC Bioterror Lab In Atlanta
    Date: June 27, 2012
    Source:
    USA Today

    Abstract: A federal bioterror laboratory already under investigation by Congress for safety issues has had repeated incidents of security doors left unlocked to an area where experiments occur with dangerous germs, according to internal agency e-mails obtained by USA TODAY. In one incident, an unauthorized employee was discovered inside a restricted area.

    A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman says the unsecured door incidents in 2010 and 2009 inside its Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory in Atlanta were "not an acceptable practice of the agency." At no time, though, were bioterror organisms such as anthrax at risk of falling into the wrong hands, he said.

    "The doors in question here are but one layer of multiple layers of security when it comes to both the animals and the agents that are worked on," CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said. "The security measures we have in place, without going into detail, make it close to impossible for anyone who doesn't have approved access to the agents to get their hands on them."

    The e-mails document doors being left unlocked in the building's high-containment lab block, which includes an animal-holding area and Biosafety Level 3 labs where experiments are done on microbes that can cause serious or potentially fatal diseases and can be spread through the air. Anthrax, monkeypox, dangerous strains of influenza and the SARS virus are examples.

    One e-mail by a CDC safety manager describes an unauthorized man discovered in the animal-holding area and multiple doors that were unsecured at the time. Skinner says the man was a CDC scientist but was not immediately able to provide further details about why he was in the restricted area. Skinner said the man was in an outer corridor of the BSL-3 suite of labs.

    For safety and security, access to BSL-3 labs is restricted and they are supposed to have special airflow systems designed to help keep organisms inside. Problems with the airflow systems revealed by USA TODAY, including a February incident where air briefly blew out of a lab into a "clean" hallway, prompted the House Energy and Commerce Committee this week to launch a bipartisan investigation into safety issues. The committee is examining whether CDC — which inspects its own labs along with others nationwide that handle bioterror agents — is complying with federal safety requirements at the lab building, also known as CDC Building 18.

    E-mails written by CDC Safety and Occupational Health manager Patrick Stockton indicate the lab has had security lapses that Rutgers University biosafety expert Richard Ebright said may be a "major violation" of security standards for labs that work with potential bioterror agents.

    In a November 2009 e-mail, Stockton wrote to several CDC officials involved with Building 18's high-containment laboratory area: "We are continuing to have some difficulties with doors remaining unsecured in the (high-containment lab) area. … If we continue to have issues, we will need to begin looking at individual access rights for these doors." The particular issue involved expansion sections of the doors, used to accommodate large pieces of equipment. The "through-bolts are not being re-engaged, and the doors are remaining unsecured," Stockton wrote.

    Five months later, the expansion doors continued to be left unlatched and unsecured. According to an April 29, 2010, e-mail to more than a dozen CDC officials involved with the lab building, Stockton wrote that earlier that day "an individual with no access and no escort" was found in the research animal-holding area of the high-containment lab area.

    The e-mail continued: "He did not have access and at this point we are not sure how he got there." Stockton wrote that he talked to program and animal staff and "no one from their programs let this person in." CDC's Office of Security and Emergency Preparedness, which is a liaison to the Department of Homeland Security, was investigating, the e-mail said. Homeland Security officials did not respond to questions about the CDC security incidents.

    Stockton's e-mail says that after the incident he and the building's high-containment lab manager, Anthony Sanchez, walked the entire high-containment block and found two doors unsecured. "This can certainly happen by mistake on occasion but we have addressed this issue in the past and now it seems to be a common failure point. … It is imperative that all doors leading to high containment remain secured," Stockton wrote.

    Stockton and Sanchez didn't grant interviews. CDC spokesman Skinner said: "Doors being left open by staff is not a standard practice. It's unacceptable, and our safety office has sent out numerous reminders to staff of the importance of staff practicing good physical security."

    Skinner said he is unaware of any other door security incidents after the one in April 2010. He emphasized that multiple layers of security in the building would have prevented any unauthorized person from accessing germs that hold the potential to be used as bioterror weapons. "The bottom line is, worker safety and the public safety were never compromised," he said.

    Ebright, of Rutgers University, expressed concern about the repeated issues revealed in news reports about Building 18 since the $214 million building opened in 2005, including articles in 2007 about backup generators that failed to keep airflow systems working during a power outage, and in 2008 about a high-containment lab door that the CDC sealed with duct tape after an incident where an airflow system malfunctioned and sent potentially contaminated air into a "clean" corridor.

    The "documents you have obtained over the past several years make it clear that there has been a pattern of corner-cutting and negligence at CDC biocontainment facilities —starting with the failure to include provisions for emergency backup power, and encompassing inadequate door seals, improper airflow, jury-rigged repairs, and unsecured access points," Ebright said.

    If the security issues described in Stockton's 2010 e-mail continue and bioterror agents are being used in that area, Ebright said, "then heads should fall."

    The CDC currently is responsible for inspecting the safety and security of its labs that work with bioterror agents. Skinner said CDC has a 66-year record of operating its labs safely.

    The CDC said this week, in the wake of USA TODAY's reports, that it is considering having its labs' safety reviewed by an outside agency, such as the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).

    Biosafety and biosecurity concerns have been the subject of previous congressional concerns. A 2009 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, examined the potential risks posed by the growing number of high-containment labs doing research on potential bioterror agents. It found that while lab accidents are rare, they do occur, primarily because of human error and systems failures.

    It also noted that insiders working in the labs can pose risks, pointing to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's allegation that Bruce Ivins, a scientist at USAMRIID in Fort Detrick, Md., was the "sole culprit" in the 2001 anthrax attacks. While he was under investigation in 2008, Ivins died of a drug overdose.

    "There are arguably two aspects to insider risk: the motive of the insider and the ability to misuse material and laboratory facilities," the GAO wrote in its report (USA Today, 2012).

    Title: CDC Bioterror Lab Doors Repeatedly Left Unlocked
    Date: June 28, 2012
    Source: Federal Times


    Abstract:  A federal bioterrorism laboratory — already under investigation by Congress for safety issues — has had repeated incidents of security doors left unlocked to an area where experiments occur with dangerous germs, according to internal agency emails obtained by USA Today. In one incident, an unauthorized employee was discovered inside a restricted area.

    A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman says the unsecured door incidents in 2010 and 2009 inside its Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory in Atlanta were “not an acceptable practice of the agency.” At no time, though, were bioterror organisms such as anthrax at risk of falling into the wrong hands, he said.

    YouTube Video

    “The doors in question here are but one layer of multiple layers of security when it comes to both the animals and the agents that are worked on,” CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said. “The security measures we have in place, without going into detail, make it close to impossible for anyone who doesn’t have approved access to the agents to get their hands on them.”

    The emails document doors being left unlocked in the building’s high-containment lab block, which includes an animal-holding area and Biosafety Level 3 labs where experiments are done on microbes that can cause serious or potentially fatal diseases and can be spread through the air. Anthrax, monkeypox, dangerous strains of influenza and the SARS virus are examples.

    One email by a CDC safety manager describes an unauthorized man discovered in the animal-holding area and multiple doors that were unsecured at the time. Skinner says the man was a CDC scientist but was not immediately able to provide further details about why he was in the restricted area. Skinner said the man was in an outer corridor of the BSL-3 suite of labs.

    Restricted Areas
    For safety and security, access to BSL-3 labs is restricted, and they are supposed to have special airflow systems designed to help keep organisms inside. Problems with the airflow systems revealed by USA Today, including a February incident where air briefly blew out of a lab into a “clean” hallway, prompted the House Energy and Commerce Committee this week to launch a bipartisan investigation into safety issues. The committee is examining whether CDC — which inspects its own labs along with others nationwide that handle bioterror agents — is complying with federal safety requirements at the lab building, also known as CDC Building 18.

    Emails written by CDC Safety and Occupational Health manager Patrick Stockton indicate the lab has had security lapses that Rutgers University biosafety expert Richard Ebright said may be a “major violation” of security standards for labs that work with potential bioterror agents.

    In a November 2009 email, Stockton wrote to several CDC officials involved with Building 18’s high-containment laboratory area: “We are continuing to have some difficulties with doors remaining unsecured in the (high-containment lab) area. … If we continue to have issues, we will need to begin looking at individual access rights for these doors.” The particular issue involved expansion sections of the doors, used to accommodate large pieces of equipment. The “through-bolts are not being re-engaged, and the doors are remaining unsecured,” Stockton wrote.

    Five months later, the expansion doors continued to be left unlatched and unsecured. According to an April 29, 2010, email to more than a dozen CDC officials involved with the lab building, Stockton wrote that earlier that day “an individual with no access and no escort” was found in the research animal-holding area of the high-containment lab area.

    The email continued: “He did not have access and at this point we are not sure how he got there.” Stockton wrote that he talked to program and animal staff and “no one from their programs let this person in.” CDC’s Office of Security and Emergency Preparedness, which is a liaison to the Department of Homeland Security, was investigating, the email said. Homeland Security officials did not respond to questions about the CDC security incidents.

    Stockton’s email says that after the incident he and the building’s high-containment lab manager, Anthony Sanchez, walked the entire high-containment block and found two doors unsecured. “This can certainly happen by mistake on occasion but we have addressed this issue in the past and now it seems to be a common failure point. … It is imperative that all doors leading to high containment remain secured,” Stockton wrote.

    Stockton and Sanchez didn’t grant interviews. CDC spokesman Skinner said: “Doors being left open by staff is not a standard practice. It’s unacceptable, and our safety office has sent out numerous reminders to staff of the importance of staff practicing good physical security.”

    Skinner said he is unaware of any other door security incidents after the one in April 2010. He emphasized that multiple layers of security in the building would have prevented any unauthorized person from accessing germs that hold the potential to be used as bioterror weapons. “The bottom line is, worker safety and the public safety were never compromised,” he said.

    Repeated Safety Failures
    Ebright, of Rutgers University, expressed concern about the repeated issues revealed in news reports about Building 18 since the $214 million building opened in 2005, including articles in 2007 about backup generators that failed to keep airflow systems working during a power outage, and in 2008 about a high-containment lab door that the CDC sealed with duct tape after an incident where an airflow system malfunctioned and sent potentially contaminated air into a “clean” corridor.

    The “documents you have obtained over the past several years make it clear that there has been a pattern of corner-cutting and negligence at CDC biocontainment facilities — starting with the failure to include provisions for emergency backup power, and encompassing inadequate door seals, improper airflow, jury-rigged repairs and unsecured access points,” Ebright said.

    If the security issues described in Stockton’s 2010 email continue and bioterror agents are being used in that area, Ebright said, “then heads should fall.”

    The CDC currently is responsible for inspecting the safety and security of its labs that work with bioterror agents. Skinner said CDC has a 66-year record of operating its labs safely.

    The CDC said this week, in the wake of USA Today’s reports, that it is considering having its labs’ safety reviewed by an outside agency, such as the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).

    Biosafety and biosecurity concerns have been the subject of previous congressional concerns. A 2009 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, examined the potential risks posed by the growing number of high-containment labs doing research on potential bioterror agents. It found that while lab accidents are rare, they do occur, primarily because of human error and systems failures.

    It also noted that insiders working in the labs can pose risks, pointing to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s allegation that Bruce Ivins, a scientist at USAMRIID in Fort Detrick, Md., was the “sole culprit” in the 2001 anthrax attacks. While he was under investigation in 2008, Ivins died of a drug overdose.

    “There are arguably two aspects to insider risk: the motive of the insider and the ability to misuse material and laboratory facilities,” the GAO wrote in its report (Federal Times, 2012).

    Title: Additional Security Lapses Uncovered At CDC Facility
    Date: July 3, 2012
    Source:
    BioPrepWatch

    Abstract: Additional security lapses were recently uncovered at a federal bioterror laboratory already under Congressional investigation for safety issues.

    The Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta has had repeated incidents of security doors left unlocked to an area where experiments are done on dangerous pathogens. In one incident, an unauthorized person was found inside a restricted area, according to USA Today.

    Tim Skinner, a  CDC spokesman, said that the security door lapses, which occurred in 2009 and 2010, were unacceptable for the agency, but at no time were bioterror agents such as anthrax at risk of being misappropriated.

    “The doors in question here are but one layer of multiple layers of security when it comes to both the animals and the agents that are worked on,” Skinner said, USA Today reports.

    Internal agency emails document doors being left unlocked in the facility’s high-containment block, which includes an animal-holding area and Biosafety Level 3 labs.

    In one email, a CDC safety manager describes how an unauthorized person was found in the animal holding area. The man, a CDC scientist, was unable to provide details about his presence in a restricted area, according to USA Today.

    In a February incident, problems with a BSL-3 lab airflow system caused air to be blown into a “clean” hallway. The problem has prompted the House Energy and Commerce Committee to launch a bipartisan investigation into safety at the CDC (BioPrepWatch, 2012).

    Title: Independent Experts Downplay Safety Concerns At CDC Lab
    Date: July 6, 2012
    Source:
    BioPrepWatch

    Abstract: An airflow malfunction at a Biosafety Level-3 laboratory in Atlanta has raised concerns about safety at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, but independent experts said that there appears to have been little or no threat to public health.

    Regardless, recently released reports about safety and security conditions at the CDC lab caught the attention of a congressional committee, which launched an investigation into biosafety procedures at the nation’s premier public health organization, according to CIDRAP News.

    Biosafety experts Dr. Joseph Kanabrocki and Dr. John Keene worry that that news coverage of the situation has left the public with the impression that the CDC facility poses a biohazard threat.

    Kanabrocki is an assistant dean of biosafety and associate professor of microbiology at the University of Chicago. Keene is managing partner at Global Biohazard Technologies and president of Biohaztec Associates. He is a past president of the American Biological Safety Association.

    Kanabrocki said that BSL-3 labs like the one at the CDC always have multiple redundant safety systems in place to protect employees and the public. Pathogens are always handled inside primary containment cabinets. He stressed that the airflow reversal would have only been a concern had it occurred in conjunction with a major spill and a malfunction in backup systems.

    “I think the first thing to get across to the public and Congress is that containment does not mean contaminated,” Keene said, CIDRAP News reports.

    Keene said BSL-3 and BSL-4 labs are not considered to be contaminated unless a massive spill occurs outside of the primary containment device, which did not happen.

    Kanabrocki said the ventilation systems in labs are complex devices, and even systems designed to maintain negative pressure in the event of a power outage or fan failure can take a few seconds to reverse the airflow. He stressed that transient pressure changes are not dangerous.

    “What it translates to is not a break in containment,” Kanabrocki said, CIDRAP News reports (BioPrepWatch, 2012).

    Title: NIH Completes Final Risk Assessment Of BU Biolab
    Date: July 12, 2012
    Source:
    BioPrepWatch

    Abstract: The U.S. National Institutes of Health recently issued a report concluding that research involving dangerous pathogens at a Boston University laboratory poses negligible risks to the surrounding community.

    The 1,700 page NIH final report concerning the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories on the BU Medical campus comes after eight years of debate, legal challenges and repeated scientific analyses.

    The NIH commissioned the report under an advisement panel of 16 experts who looked at the risk posed by both lab accidents and malevolent acts. The lab is now a major step closer to approval for expanded research at Biosafety Levels 3 and 4.

    “This is a milestone,” Stephen Burgay, BU’s senior vice president for external affairs, said. “It is not the final step in the approval process. This will allow us to go to the regulators and courts and ask for the certification needed for research at other biosafety levels.”

    The risk assessment examined the likelihood and consequences of 300 events in terms of the risk of infection or release of pathogen studied at the facility. The NIH found that safeguards built into the facility, the low amounts of present pathogens and the culture of biosafety and training make the danger to the surrounding community extremely low.

    Burgay said that no classified or secret research will be conducted at the laboratory and all of the lab’s projects will be described on the NEIDL website. BU hopes the completion of the report will allay fears about the facility with regard to safety issues (BioPrepWatch, 2012).

    Title: GHSU Lab Technician Found Drunk, Partially Nude In Locker Room While 2 Monkeys Loose In Lab
    Date: August 17, 2012
    Source:
    WJBF

    Abstract: WJBF News Channel 6 has learned a Georgia Health Sciences University (GHSU) Lab Animal Services employee was found drunk and partially nude in a Lab Animal Services Technician locker room on Monday, August 13th.

    A GHSU spokesperson confirms that 2 monkeys were out of their cages in the locked Animals Services Lab.

    The man is identified as 32-year-old Coley Oneal Mitchell. GHSU Police officers arrested Mitchell and charged him with public drunkenness and turned him over to the Richmond County Sheriff's Office. He was then booked into the Richmond County Jail.

    In a statement sent to WJBF News Channel 6, a GHSU spokesperson says:

    "No animals were harmed during the incident, but the university takes the allegations very seriously. GHSU does not condone behavior that conflicts with the research, education and clinical missions of the university and employees are expected to conduct themselves, at all times, with integrity and respect."

    We are told the monkeys were not harmed and they were checked by a veterinarian, who reported the monkeys are fine.

    We will continue to follow this story and bring you the latest information as it becomes available (WJBF, 2012)

    Title: GHSU Lab Technician Found Drunk, Partially Nude In Locker Room While 2 Monkeys Loose In Lab
    Date: August 17, 2012
    Source: 
    WJBF

    Abstract: WJBF News Channel 6 has learned a Georgia Health Sciences University (GHSU) Lab Animal Services employee was found drunk and partially nude in a Lab Animal Services Technician locker room on Monday, August 13th.

    A GHSU spokesperson confirms that 2 monkeys were out of their cages in the locked Animals Services Lab.

    The man is identified as 32-year-old Coley Oneal Mitchell. GHSU Police officers arrested Mitchell and charged him with public drunkenness and turned him over to the Richmond County Sheriff's Office. He was then booked into the Richmond County Jail.

    In a statement sent to WJBF News Channel 6, a GHSU spokesperson says:

    "No animals were harmed during the incident, but the university takes the allegations very seriously. GHSU does not condone behavior that conflicts with the research, education and clinical missions of the university and employees are expected to conduct themselves, at all times, with integrity and respect."

    We are told the monkeys were not harmed and they were checked by a veterinarian, who reported the monkeys are fine.

    We will continue to follow this story and bring you the latest information as it becomes available (WJBF, 2012).

    Title: Lab Tech Parties With Escaped Monkeys
    Date: August 22, 2012
    Source: 
    ClickOrlando.com

    Abstract: A Georgia Health Sciences University lab tech was recently discovered in a campus locker room engaging in unusual behavior.

    Authorities said 32-year-old Coley Mitchell was jailed after he was found intoxicated with his pants down in a locker room in the Sanders Research and Education Building while two lab monkeys were found roaming free, outside their cages, the Augusta Chronicle reported.

    Mitchell was booked into Richmond County jail on charges of public intoxication. The monkeys were examined and found to be unharmed (ClickOrlando.com, 2012)

    Title: Plum Island Facility Fails To Meet Biocontainment Standards
    Date: August 22, 2012
    Source:
    BioPrepWatch

    Abstract: A new report by the National Research Council indicates that the Plum Island Animal Disease Center is in need of major improvements.

    The report notes the “imperative” need for a large animal biocontainment laboratory in the United States in order to protect animal and public health, East Hampton Patch reports.

    A new National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility or scaled back version could help meet the need, but until such a facility is opened, Plum Island “should remain in operation to address ongoing needs,” the report states.

    Plum Island, though, is in need of updates to its aging infrastructure estimating a total cost of $90 million. The estimate is based on initial estimates for short-term improvements, including improvements to the liquid-waste decontamination facility, Plum Island and Orient Point harbors, information technology upgrades, utility and building upgrades, security hardening, detection and access control, and marine vessel replacement and lighthouse restoration, according to East Hampton Patch.

    Long-term improvements are estimated at $210 million, should the center be expected to operate for another 25 years.

    One drawback of ignoring the needed updates is that the center does not have large animal Biosafety Level 4 Capacity, which contains agents identified as potentially life-threatening, meaning that work would have to go to foreign laboratories.

    The proposed NBAF, which would be in Manhattan, Kansas, would be the world’s fourth Biosafety Level 4 level laboratory capable of large animal research, according to the report. The site would replace the Plum Island facility, but would cost an estimated $1.14 billion.

    The report also says that Plum Island’s aging infrastructure does “not meet current standards for high biocontainment,” according to East Hampton Patch.

    DHS has previously stated that cost of maintaining and operating the Plum Island facility would be costly and that a Biosafety Level 4 facility could not be constructed on Plum Island.

    Due to the crucial need for foot-and-mouth disease research in the United States, improvements must be made, no matter what option is selected, the report states, East Hampton Patch reports (BioPrepWatch, 2012)

    Title: Lab Mishap Sends Students To Hospital
    Date: September 13, 2012
    Source:
    Fox News

    Abstract: A mishap in a high school biology class sent several students and their teacher to the hospital Wednesday afternoon.

    Students in the lab at Arlington High School said they were working on an experiment to test for proteins and amino acids. It involved mixing several chemicals.

    The teacher opened a vial under a vent hood and it caused an unexpected reaction that released fumes that smelled like burning chemicals, they said.

    The teacher and five students were overcome by nausea, dizziness and headaches. They were taken to the hospital for evaluation.

    The rest of the class was evacuated (Fox News, 2012).

    Title: Up To 500 Defendants Face Release In Boston Lab Scandal, District Attorney Says
    Date: October 5, 2012
    Source:
    Fox News

    Abstract: About 300 to 500 defendants, including some "pretty dangerous people," may be released into Boston streets because of the alleged mishandling of evidence at a Massachusetts drug lab, a prosecutor said Friday.

    Chemist Annie Dookhan is charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly skirting protocols and faking test results at the now-closed state drug lab. At least two dozen defendants whose cases Dookhan handled have been released, including career criminal and convicted rapist Marcus Pixley.

    Pixley was released on bail earlier this month but failed to show up for court Wednesday. Quincy police arrested him Friday.

    Suffolk District Attorney Dan Conley said officials in Boston are "concerned that there may be violence" if other defendants and convicts are released and have discussed intervening in the lives of those who are freed in order to prevent repeat offenses.

    "We may be in the position, we undoubtedly will be in the position, to assent to the release of some pretty dangerous people into Boston," Conley said.

    Meanwhile, Mayor Thomas Menino said federal officials should offer support to ensure that those released are monitored so "they're not back out on the streets doing the same thing they did in the past."

    "Our crime rate in Boston right now is down, but if we're going to have maybe 1,200 individuals released to the streets of our city, what will happen in the future?" Menino asked reporters during a campaign stop for U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren. "It's an emergency."

    On Friday, Boston Municipal Court held the first special session to handle criminal cases challenged in light of the lab scandal.

    Defendants Carlos Colon and Michael Wells were released because Dookhan signed off on or tested their samples.

    Wells, 24, was arrested in 2009, then violated his probation with drug distribution charges in 2011. Dookhan tested the 2011 sample, and Wells has since been in jail.

    "He's exactly that kind of person that needs to be heard today," defense attorney Jennifer Saunders told Judge Mary Ann Driscoll.

    Saunders said Wells was accepted to Le Cordon Bleu culinary school and has a young daughter and fiancee. He was released on personal recognizance and must adhere to a curfew.

    Colon, 21, who had a drug distribution conviction in 2011, was released on $500 bail and a curfew.

    Three other defendants with cases related to Dookhan were not released while attorneys continue gathering information or because they are serving time for other sentences.

    Of the 18 cases heard Friday, only five actually involved Dookhan.

    Conley said court officials "hastily" compiled the list of defendants brought in for hearings without input from prosecutors or defense attorneys.

    "What is going on here today is taking away from our real work that we have to do to identify who really was affected," Conley said during a break.

    Most defendants were in custody at South Bay House of Correction and brought into court one by one when their names were called.

    "You have these poor folks, they did their time, they're doing their time, they admitted to what they've done, and they have to be traipsed in here in handcuffs and prison garb ... all of these not related to Annie Dookhan," Conley said. "I think this court also has to be embarrassed."

    Asked about public safety in light of the release of inmates, Gov. Patrick Deval said freeing them is not a "technicality."

    "We are talking about people who shouldn't have been convicted and who need to have justice done in their cases," he said.

    "In terms of people who have other charges or records, there's a process for that, there's a system for that and there's public safety officials who have responsibility for that," he added.

    Deval said it was too early to estimate how much the state would spend to address the crisis (Fox News, 2012).