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Safety

More Oversight Of Biolabs Needed

by Glenn Hess
September 28, 2009 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 87, ISSUE 39

The federal government needs to do more to ensure the safety of high-containment laboratories where scientists work with dangerous pathogens, the Government Accountability Office said last week. The federal watchdog agency noted in a report (GAO-09-574) that the number of labs conducting research on biological pathogens has grown dramatically in recent years. But GAO found that no single agency or office in the federal government keeps track of how many of these labs exist in the U.S., where they are located, and what type of research they are doing. "As a consequence, no federal agency can determine whether high-containment laboratory capacity may now meet or exceed the national need or is at a level that can be operated safely," the report said. The federal government, universities, and the private sector began building more labs to develop medical countermeasures after a series of anthrax attacks in the U.S. killed five people in 2001.

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