Artwork: Anne MacNamara

When the anthrax assaults of last fall transformed bioterrorism from theoretical possibility to reality, Congress wasted little time cranking out new laws that target laboratory operations. Within weeks of the attack on the World Trade Center, the USA Patriot Act whipped through Congress and became law, adding criminal sanctions to existing "biological weapons" statutes. A scant seven months later, the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Response Act was signed, underlining the need to control access to compounds and pathogens with weapons potential.

Critical questions about who will enforce the tougher laws and how they will go about it--enhanced reporting, surprise inspections, and regular audits--remain unclear. What is clear is that working scientists need to incorporate systems for keeping up with the pace of regulatory changes in their laboratory operations. No longer will an annual meeting with the university's environmental and safety advisors suffice. The Federal Register,...

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