Recently obtained and heavily-redacted records show that the CDC hasn’t been totally forthcoming about all of their laboratory accidents and Congress isn’t happy. Thanks to research done by USA Today, we now know that these lab accidents include, “an apparently lost box of deadly influenza specimens, potential exposures to viruses and bacteria, and a purified air hose suddenly disconnecting from a scientist’s full-body spacesuit-like gear while working in a lab that handles the world’s most deadly pathogens”. Not surprisingly, they now want a full account of the information they’ve tried to keep secret.
However, after taking almost two years to release the reports that took place from 2013 to 2015, the CDC has blacked out large portions of information if the accidents involved things like anthrax, Ebola or deadly strains of influenza.
From the article:
“In a letter sent Tuesday, leaders of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce have given the CDC until the end of the month to give them a list of all lab safety incidents at the agency since 2012. The committee also wants an unredacted version of the 503 pages of lab incident reports the CDC released to USA TODAY under the Freedom of Information Act. In many of the records, the CDC cited a 2002 bioterrorism law and removed information including the types of pathogens involved and descriptions of what happened.”
But it seems the CDC doesn’t like reporting their incidents and if these 2013-2015 issues weren’t previously disclosed, this would be the second time in seven months that the CDC hasn’t given members of Congress all of the information they’ve requested. There have been serious safety inconsistencies at the CDC (and other federal labs) and Congress needs to know why. For all our safety.
The CDC operates numerous labs, across many buildings, in multiple states and lacks a comprehensive policy that would allow them to centralize their reporting. And that’s a glaring issue. But, they don’t just operate their own labs.
An arm of the CDC co-runs the “Federal Select Agent Program’, tasked with inspecting and regulating about 290 government, military, university, private and commercial labs that work with bioterror pathogens (thnk anthrax, Ebola, the plague, the toxins that cause botulism and ricin poisoning- fun). The U.S.D.A. is their partner in the regulatory program.
More from the article:
“Critics say the ongoing revelations of lab incidents at the CDC and other facilities show the need to reassess whether the current regulatory system is working. Former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle, a member of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense, said it is time for Congress to conduct a comprehensive review of the Select Agent Program. “Not just a hearing, but a major reassessment,” Daschle told USA TODAY. The panel issued a report in December that flags the inaction.
Since 2009, the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, has repeatedly made recommendations for improving lab oversight, especially the need to establish a single federal entity to oversee high-containment laboratories that work with the most dangerous pathogens.”
The work done at these labs is important and imperative to public health and sadly, our national security. We need to understand where we are weak and fix the problems. The CDC should be concerned about the same thing and be willing to be transparent for our safety. However, their current behavior is what we’ve come to expect from them; they simply hide or redact the truth that doesn’t suit them.
We will keep you posted as this story further unfolds. We would simply love to see the CDC finally have their over-sized hands slapped.
Source: USA Today