Biosafety accidents on the rise

On the heels of linkurl:recent revelations;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/53626/ of unreported accidents in Texas university labs and breaches of safety regulations at the University of Wisconsin, an AP article today linkurl:reports;http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/02/AR2007100200158.html on mishaps at biosafety labs across the country. More than 100 such incidents have occurred since 2003, and some were not reported as required, according to the article.

By | October 3, 2007

On the heels of linkurl:recent revelations;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/53626/ of unreported accidents in Texas university labs and breaches of safety regulations at the University of Wisconsin, an AP article today linkurl:reports;http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/02/AR2007100200158.html on mishaps at biosafety labs across the country. More than 100 such incidents have occurred since 2003, and some were not reported as required, according to the article. With a recent surge in the numbers of biolabs, safety snafus appear to be on the rise. In 2007 so far, labs reported 36 "accidents and lost shipments" -- double the number of incidents that were reported in 2004. Accidents included bites from infected animals, spills and leaks and unaccounted-for infected rodents. In one case, a sample of plague bacteria was shipped to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, DC, but went missing and was later traced to Belgium. The article is based on the news agency's review of "confidential reports submitted to federal regulators" documenting incidents over the past several years. It's unclear whether the AP was actually able to obtain the reports; the article notes that that "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." Edward Hammond of the linkurl:Sunshine Project,;http://www.sunshine-project.org who has criticized the inefficiency of the government oversight system for biosafety, told The Scientist he plans to speak against the "unnecessary and counterproductive secrecy" around biolab issues at a congressional hearing on biosafety lab oversight to be held Thursday (October 4).

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