American lab dangers to be scrutinised

August 24, 2007

Two US Congressional committees will investigate safety at laboratories that handle the most infectious or dangerous diseases.

The chairs of the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will look at whether the labs, which include several university facilities, are designed, built and operated safely. John D. Dingell, chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, said the number of labs had grown but there was little information on how safely they were run.

Bart Stupak, chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, said: "Is there a point at which there are so many labs doing this research that you increase the chances of a catastrophic release of a deadly disease? We want to know the answer or whether anyone in the Administration has even seriously considered the question."

Recent incidents include staff at a lab at Texas A&M University being exposed to Q fever, although no one became ill.

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