Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Ralph Wiggum: At my house, we call them uh-ohs. 

It's perhaps surprising to hear that Biosafety labs in the United States only have a limited requirement to report accidents. A 2007 news article in the journal Nature, Biosafety labs urged to report accidents and near misses, based on a report from  the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Biosecurity, calls for a federal system to analyse mistakes in Biosafety Level 3 and BSL-4 laboratories to prevent future accidents.

Researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have to report accidents to the NIH, although there is no penalty if they neglect to do so. 

Incidents involving recombinant DNA must be reported if occurring at an institution that receives any NIH funding. 

And exposure to pathogens on the US 'select agent' list, such as anthrax, need to be reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), or the Department of Agriculture.

But that's about it and there's undoubtedly a lot of accidents going on that are never reported. A 2009 analysis of US government laboratories discovered  395 incidents that involved the potential release of select agents between 2003 and 2009. The most common accident was "loss of containment" with 196 cases.

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