US labs mishandled dangerous biomaterials at least 1,100 times between 2008 and 2012, according to hard-to-access statistics collated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and obtained by USA Today.
The data, which is for the latest year available, was presented to Congress last month following an uproar over the exposure of more than 60 CDC staff to live deadly anthrax bacteria in a top Atlanta lab in June, and received by the US newspaper following a direct legal request. The hearings provoked the resignation of lab chief Michael Farrell, but the statistics covering about 1,400 licensed facilities handling dangerous materials show that the failures are systemic.
“More than 200 incidents of loss or release of bioweapons agents from US laboratories are reported each year. This works out to more than four per week,” Richard Ebright, a leading biosafety expert at Rutgers University, who testified before Congress, told USA Today.