Lab Accidents on the Rise

by Laura Spadanuta, Assistant Editor

American laboratories that deal with the world's deadliest germs and toxins have had more than 100 accidents and missing shipments since 2003, according to an Associated Press review of confidential reports submitted to federal regulators.

The incidents included animal bites and skin cuts, and involved such toxins as anthrax and bird flu virus.  No one died in these incidents and the article states that regulators maintain the public was never at risk.  But, the numbers are increasing; the 36 accidents and lost shipments reported so far for 2007 are nearly double the entire amount for 2004. 

The number of labs approved by the government to handle the deadliest substances has also nearly doubled to 409 since 2004.  These labs are inspected at least once every three years.

A GAO report, expected to be released later this week, also comments on the growing number of labs:

In a new report by congressional investigators, the Government Accountability Office said little is known about labs that aren't federally funded or don't work with any of 72 dangerous substances the government monitors most closely.

"No single federal agency ... has the mission to track the overall number of these labs in the United States," said the GAO's report.... "Consequently, no agency is responsible for determining the risks associated with the proliferation of these labs."

According to the article, the House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations plans a hearing tomorrow on this issue.

For more on this topic and a look at the safety measures in U.S. laboratories, take a look at the upcoming November issue of Security Management.





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