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Lab weathers storms, not concerns?

A high-security pathogen lab in Galveston, Texas, survived the hurricane that hit the region last month, but is now the focus of safety concerns plaguing biosafety research of late. Galveston is an island often hit by hurricanes. Ike, which hit in September, caused more than $700 million in damage to the University of Texas facilities there, about $18 million of that to research labs, Nature linkurl:reported.;http://www.nature.com/news/2008/081022/full/4551012a.html But the pathogen lab escaped

By | October 29, 2008

A high-security pathogen lab in Galveston, Texas, survived the hurricane that hit the region last month, but is now the focus of safety concerns plaguing biosafety research of late. Galveston is an island often hit by hurricanes. Ike, which hit in September, caused more than $700 million in damage to the University of Texas facilities there, about $18 million of that to research labs, Nature linkurl:reported.;http://www.nature.com/news/2008/081022/full/4551012a.html But the pathogen lab escaped unscathed. "The entire island can wash away and this is still going to be there," the lab's deputy director, James W. LeDuc, linkurl:told;http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/29/us/29lab.html?_r=1&oref=slogin the New York Times. Still, some say that locating a lab working with dangerous pathogens such as linkurl:Ebola;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54827/ and Marburg virus in a geographical area so vulnerable to storm damage is risky. "As destructive as it was, Hurricaine Ike was only a Category 2 storm," Ken Kramer, director of the Sierra Club's linkurl:Lone Star Chapter;http://lonestar.sierraclub.org/ told the Times. "A more powerful storm would pose an even greater threat of a biohazard release." The lab is a kind of sister institution to a similar but much more contentious project in linkurl:Boston,;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55087/ which has been stalled over safety concerns. Both were pushed by President George W. Bush's administration in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Galveston has run a small-scale BSL-4 lab since 2004, but a state-of-the-art $174 million building housing an expanded facility is set to open in November. Both safely survived the storm. The new building, 30 feet above sea level, was constructed to withstand the area's wild weather, from 140-mile winds to power outages. Extensive air filters, waste disposal protocols, and plans for stopping research and destroying some live viruses 24 hours before a storm hits should be enough to keep the facilities safe, officials say, though concerns still linger. Galveston is one of the five currently operating BSL-4 labs in the country; two other labs on that list were found to have serious linkurl:security shortfalls;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55093/ earlier this month. Four more BSL-4 labs, including Boston's biolab, are now in various stages of planning or construction. Officials are set to decide the final location for one of them, the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, by the end of this year.
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Comments

Avatar of: Nelson Thompson

Nelson Thompson

Posts: 12

October 29, 2008

A hurricane, even a class 5 monster, is probably no more a threat to a secure facility than, say, a major earthquake. On the other hand, Galveston presents an advantage over other locations. Were a pathogen to escape from the facility, it could be quickly contained by shutting down the only two bridges off the island, and preventing boat traffic.
Avatar of: TS Raman

TS Raman

Posts: 31

October 30, 2008

Here below is a 17-year old news report, which did not attract even a fraction of the attention that it deserved. I think the "establishment" must have downplayed the gravity of the incident.\n\n==================================================================================================\nIndia - Atomic lab flooded [K.S. Jayaraman, Nature 352 (25 July 1991) 272] \nMuddy rain water from heavy rains entered the basement of a half-kilometre laboratory block damaging valuable equipment. The Modular Laboratory – BARC’s main building with offices on the upper floors and laboratories in the basement – was flooded after unprecedented rains on 8th June and landslides from a nearby hill. The entire basement was under 2½ feet of muddy water. Damaged are: Electron Linear Accelerator, several spectrophotometers, and a uranium laser separator used for producing 30% enriched uranium. R. Chidambaram, Director, says damage is about ₨5 million, but unofficial sources put it as high as ₨100 million. Research in several divisions will be set back by two or three years.\n==================================================================================================
Avatar of: Frank Keegan

Frank Keegan

Posts: 1

November 23, 2008

http://www.baltimoreexaminer.com/opinion/112308editorial.html\n\nSelf (inflicted) defense can up risk\nBy The Baltimore Examiner Newspaper\n- 11/23/08\n\nTwo clear facts shine from the clouded mystery of anthrax attacks on America and our government?s tenuous claim seven years later of closing the case with the suicide of a suspect.\nFact No. 1: Government warnings about anthrax being a weapon of mass destruction were false. Somebody dispersed the most lethal strain our tax dollars can produce ? weapons-grade or near enough ? via the U.S. Postal Service, exposing tens of millions of people, yet managed to infect 22. Five died. But from anthrax vaccination, at least 21 died and thousands reported a wide range of illnesses.\n\nFact No. 2: If FBI accusations against their prime suspect in the 2001 attack are true, it means billions of dollars taxpayers invested on the premise of prevention actually increased the risk.\n\nWhen senior biodefense researcher Bruce Ivins died from an overdose of Tylenol 3 after being identified as sole suspect, our central\ngovernment declared the crime solved.\n\nHowever, co-workers at the U.S. Army Medical Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Frederick say the actions attributed to Ivins over the time the government claims are scientifically impossible.\n\nThis is going to be another never-healing wound in America?s body of unsolved mysteries.\n\nBut mystery should not distract us from the truth. Our government?s response to bioweapons is raising the danger level from them.\n\nThink it through, citizens. The very vaccination program intended to thwart anthrax apparently sickened and killed more people than an actual mass attack.\n\nAfter the 2001 attack, our government hurled $41 billion at bioterror with no real coordination or study. High-level labs multiplied threefold. A dozen agencies exponentially increased the number of facilities and workers handling pathogens. Now we have more than 15,000 potential Bruce Ivins.\n\nMeanwhile, our leaders provided no adequate increase in oversight, coordination, training, security, surveillance, testing, background checks or psychological screening.\n\nStatistically, something going horribly wrong now approaches sure thing. That is not just a threat to residents of Frederick, Bethesda and other communities. It is, as the spread of anthrax spores proved, a threat to the whole world.\n\nWe learned in 2001 the actual danger from anthrax was lower than vaccine.\n\nBut these biohazard labs grow a lot more dangerous pathogens than anthrax. The next one to get out could kill millions.\n\nPresident Bush must immediately halt programs until we can impose coordinated oversight, then assess security and capacity needs.\n\nWe must not let self-defense become self-inflicted catastrophe.\n\n\nLink to GAO reports\nhttp://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-08-108T High-Containment Biosafety Laboratories\nhttp://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-07-333R Issues Associated with Expansion\n\nRead the vaccine series\nhttp://www.baltimoreexaminer.com/local/crime/Scientific_impossibility.html Scientific impossibility\nhttp://www.baltimoreexaminer.com/local/112008anthraxpart2.html Sickening results\nhttp://www.baltimoreexaminer.com/local/112008anthrax.html Costly program\nhttp://www.baltimoreexaminer.com/local/112008anthraxletter.html Pentagon responds\n

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