Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Biodefense, Biolabs & Bugs: Council Takes Important First Step

Seattle, WA – 06/04/10 - With a growing number of high-containment biolabs operating in Seattle neighborhoods, commends the Seattle City Council for its unanimous support of a resolution urging the State of Washington to set standards for biosafety laboratories.

“Seattle is quietly becoming a hotbed of the U.S. Biodefense program with work on dangerous pathogens taking place right under our noses.” said Mike McCormick of

In 2005 the University of Washington abandoned plans to build a new Regional Biocontainment Laboratory to house its current biodefense program. Individual citizens, businesses and neighborhood organizations opposed siting a complex that worked on dangerous infectious diseases in a densely populated neighborhood. During public hearings UW representatives stated there were over 30 similar labs at the UW and “five or six scattered thoughout the Seattle area, many in South Lake Union”. Since that time, more labs have been built in SLU.

Contrary to lab proponents, accidents and safety failures at labs are not unusual. Numerous investigations (including at UW) find an ever-increasing incidence of serious problems as the number of biolabs and personnel exponentially increase. A 2009 GAO report titled “High-Containment Laboratories: National Strategy for Oversight is Needed” states “even laboratories within sophisticated biological research programs—including those most extensively regulated—have had and will continue to have safety failures.”

Last year the University of Washington helped create a second Regional Center for Biodefense & Emerging Infectious Diseases in the Pacific NW, making this area the only region in the country with two biodefense programs.

“At the same time that the UW is decommissioning half it’s high-containment biolabs due to deficiencies, it’s expanding its biodefense program. We need a vigorous citizen debate before the University of Washington goes any farther on its work with ebola, avian influenza and the recreated 1918 influenza.” says McCormick.


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