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FW: [Biodefense] LabWatch: UW Plagued by Biosafety Problems

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  • Donald Argus
    ... From: biodefense@sunshine-project.org [mailto:biodefense@sunshine-project.org] On Behalf Of Edward Hammond Sent: Tuesday, May 02, 2006 10:26 AM To:
    Message 1 of 1 , May 2, 2006
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      -----Original Message-----
      From: biodefense@...
      [mailto:biodefense@...] On Behalf Of Edward Hammond
      Sent: Tuesday, May 02, 2006 10:26 AM
      To: Multiple recipients of biodefense
      Subject: [Biodefense] LabWatch: UW Plagued by Biosafety Problems

      For immediate release...

      UW Plagued by Biosafety Problems

      Seattle, WA 05/02/06 - Less than a year after the University of
      Washington withdrew a request for federal funding for a high security
      biodefense lab, recently released transcripts reveal systemic safety
      problems at several UW biosafety labs.

      At the January 2006 meeting of the UW
      Institutional Biosafety Committee, members discussed multiple safety
      lapses that included both procedural and equipment failures.

      At least six and possibly more than a dozen scientists ("PIs" or
      "Principal Investigators") working at a biosafety lab in South Lake
      Union disregarded SOPs (standard operating procedures) on assigned work
      with biohazardous agents.
      The PIs "initiated their studies without getting final approval and
      without having the appropriate biosafety cabinets, the appropriate
      rooms, the appropriate education, the appropriate paperwork on file and
      without the appropriate waste stream," according to David Emery, Chair
      of the UW IBC (Institutional Biosafety Committee). "For the life of me,
      I can't figure out exactly what happened here". (From a transcript of
      the January 13, 2006 meeting of the UW IBC). It appears neither of the
      two oversight groups, Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S), nor the IBC,
      upon discovering the violations, sought to halt the biohazardous work.

      In addition, IBC meeting transcripts indicate that a backup air handling
      system--a primary laboratory safety component--failed during a 2005 test
      at one of the BSL-3 labs located in the UW's Health Sciences Building.
      The incident triggered an immediate shutdown of the affected labs, and
      all associated researchers received medical surveillance. Due to the
      failure, the UW plans to begin regularly testing its 30 other BSL-3 labs
      located on-campus, in the U-District and in South Lake Union.

      Biosafety laboratory concerns are nothing new to Seattle.

      *Lab safety was the primary concern raised at public hearings when the
      UW proposed building a high-security biodefense BSL-3 complex on-campus
      last year. Since then, the Northeast District Council (NEDC), an
      organization representing 20 neighborhoods has proposed public oversight
      of biosafety labs in Seattle.

      *In 2004 three researchers at the IDRI/Corixa
      BSL-3 labs on First Hill in Seattle were exposed to TB from a faulty
      animal aerosol chamber.

      *The UW plans to aerosolize the recreated 1918 influenza virus on
      monkeys at BSL-3 labs located in the densely populated neighborhood of
      Belltown next year. The 1918 influenza strain killed an estimated 40 to
      100 million people. It currently has no known cure.

      For more info: Mike McCormick 206-525-9998 Labwatch Seattle
      www.labwatch.org
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