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CDC Slaps Texas A&M Over Lab Safety

September 10, 2007 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 85, Issue 37

Earlier this summer, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention banned Texas A&M University from conducting all biodefense research because of the university's failure to report lab workers' exposure to dangerous biological agents dubbed "select agents." An Aug. 31 CDC report on the university's conduct has just surfaced. It documents myriad problems at the school, ranging from unauthorized access to the highly secured labs to missing vials of select agents, and recommends corrective actions. CDC's ban on select-agent work remains in effect until the university corrects the long list of identified problems. In addition to access and missing vial violations, CDC noted that some research was conducted without federal approval in labs not suited for select agent research. Also, workers failed to don protective respiratory equipment and wore lab coats used in experiments outside the lab. CDC also found that an aerosol chamber used for tests was vented directly into the lab with nothing to block the select agents being tested. The university is taking corrective action and awaits a report from the inspector general of the Department of Heath & Human Services, of which CDC is a part, that will detail any financial and criminal penalties.


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