"Growing Number of Biosafety Labs Raises Public Health Concern"

"Since the 2001 anthrax letter attacks that killed five people and raised the specter of bioterrorism in the United States, the number of high-level biosafety labs operated by governments, universities and others to study potentially lethal pathogens has been expanding rapidly. According to a 2013 report to Congress, the number of these labs grew by almost 10 percent, from 1,362 to 1,495, between 2008 and 2010 alone.

The construction of hundreds of new labs designed for working with dangerous organisms has occurred without any central oversight or clear strategy for expansion, congressional analysts and others say. The expansion has raised concerns that many of these labs may not be needed and that their sheer number raises the risk of exposure to the public from the germs they study.

The FBI’s chief suspect in the 2001 attack, who committed suicide in 2008 before he could be charged in the case, was a biologist at the Army’s biodefense lab at Fort Detrick, Maryland."

James Arkin reports for the Center for Public Integrity August 20, 2014.

Source: Center for Public Integrity, 08/20/2014