Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Boston Proposes Lab Regulations

Boston is taking the lead nationwide by proposing local oversight and regulation of labs in that city. Seattle could learn a lot from Boston. Check out the proposed regulations at the Boston Public Health Commission site or in the docs section of the site.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

NEDC Recommends Independent Oversight of Labs

October 17, 2005

Dorothy Teeter, Interim Director for Public Health
Members, King County Board of Health
999 3rd Avenue, Suite 1200
Seattle, Washington 98104

Mayor Greg Nickels
City of Seattle
600 4th Avenue, Floor 7
P.O. Box 94769
Seattle, Washington 98124-4749
Seattle City Councilmembers
600 Fourth Avenue, Floor 2
P.O. Box 34025
Seattle, Washington 98124-4025

Mark A. Emmert, President
University of Washington
301 Gerberding Hall
Box 351230
Seattle, Washington 98195-1230

RE: Independent Oversight of Seattle Biosafety Laboratories

Dear Elected and Appointed Leaders,

We are writing on behalf of the Northeast District Council, a group that represents over 20 Seattle neighborhood groups, recommending independent regulation of Seattle biosafety laboratories. We made this recommendation to UW President Emmert in a letter in April. Clearly recent events indicate such independent oversight of biohazardous research is critical to our public health system.

The 1918 influenza virus, dead for over eighty-five years, was recently recreated in U.S. laboratories. Nationally and internationally scientists have criticized both lab procedures as well as the overall lab safety level used for this work. Similar questions have been raised here in Seattle where the next stage of work on the 1918 influenza virus is scheduled to take place.

However, local work on the 1918 virus is not the only problem. As recent newspaper articles have indicated, hazardous biological work is occurring in numerous labs across Seattle. Just last year there was an accident that infected three researchers with Tularemia at the IDRI/Corixa facility on First Hill in Seattle. During that same period two similar incidents happened in Boston infecting several researchers there. In both cases, lack of meaningful oversight led to the incidents only coming to light through the investigative work of diligent reporters. The public was the last to know.

We believe that there should be independent oversight by representatives of the public who are unconnected to biohazardous research and who have no financial or other self-interest in the conduct of such research. As we wrote in April (see attached/enclosed) we are concerned when the researchers themselves are the arbiters of what is safe enough. Self-regulation is inadequate for the protection of the public or for the development and preservation of public trust in our local biotechnology industry. We recommend that an independent biosafety oversight committee be located within the King County public health department.

Cambridge, Massachusetts has set a valuable model. The Cambridge Biosafety Committee has operated there for three decades as part of the public health system. The Committee is charged with reviewing research proposals and developing oversight procedures consistent with federal standards. Its director is Sam Lipson, whose contact information is below. We believe this model would also work well for Seattle and King County.

Thank you for considering our request to improve our public health system.


Matthew Fox, Co-Chair
1407 1/2 NE 56th
Seattle, WA 98105

Jim O'Halloran, Co-Chair
6219 Brooklyn Avenue NE
Seattle, WA 98115

ENC: Letter of April 8, 2005 from NEDC to UW President Emmert
cc: Sam Lipson, Director of Environmental Health, Cambridge Public Health Department, 119 Windsor Street, Cambridge, MA 02139 (617) 665-3838,