Recent glaring safety lapses involving anthrax, smallpox and a dangerous strain of bird flu are the latest violations at a half-dozen laboratories run by federal health agencies, 11 labs run by universities and eight more operated by state, local or private entities, reports USA today. The paper cited reports by the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that it obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The reports, stamped “restricted,” provide a rare glimpse into the secretive world of bioterror lab safety and the oversight of government, university and private labs.
The reports cited inadequate security procedures, lax inventory records for germs that could be used as bioterror agents and training concerns. Auditors warned that such issues could have compromised the labs’ abilities “to safeguard select agents from accidental or intentional loss and to ensure the safety of individuals who worked with select agents.” Auditors also found that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention largely failed during its inspections to catch serious security lapses when samples were shipped by 20 labs.