Secret government documents and emails reveal that a $214 million CDC bioterror germ lab in Atlanta has had repeated problems with airflow systems designed to help prevent the release of infectious agents. The lab is violating basic laboratory operating standards, which is used for experiments with anthrax, dangerous strains of flu, SARS, monkeypox and other microbes that have the potential to be used as bioweapons.
CDC engineers have raised concerns about the air containment systems in emails since 2010, and in February, air from the lab briefly blew out into a "clean" corridor where a group of visitors weren't wearing any protective gear.
The CDC is responsible for inspecting its own labs, and in the June 13th edition of USA Today, Alison Young quotes CDC safety manager William Howard as saying, "Bottom line is we can't continue to operate the building the way it is--if a lab inspector finds out air is moving this direction they will shut this place down."
Young quotes biosafety expert Richard Ebright, who has read excerpts from the CDC documents, as saying that they "raise serious concerns. There appear to be significant irregularities" (of the type that CDC inspectors) "would flag as major violations in inspections of non-CDC facilities."
They have already had some disturbing incidents: In 2007, backup generators didn't work to keep airflow systems working during a power outage. In 2008, inspectors noted that a high-containment lab door was still sealed with duct tape, which was applied a year earlier, whena ventilation system malfunctioned and pulled potentially contaminated air out of the lab and into a "clean" hallway. After that incident; nine CDC workers were tested for potential exposure to Q fever bacteria, but none were infected.
Rather than dangerous germs blowing out into nearby areas, the main concern is that germs will infect CDC workers, who will then carry them back into their neighborhoods, spreading the contagion.
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