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