Archive for the ‘germs’ Category

“High-security” research labs really not secure

October 16, 2008

By LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – Intruders could easily break into two U.S. laboratories where researchers handle some of the world’s deadliest germs, according to congressional investigators. The Associated Press identified the vulnerable lab locations as Atlanta and San Antonio.
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The serious security problems at the two labs were described by the Government Accountability Office in a report expected to be released publicly as early as Thursday. The GAO, Congress’ investigative and auditing arm, did not identify the labs except to say they were classified as Biosafety Level 4 facilities, but the report included enough details for the AP — and others knowledgeable about such labs — to determine their locations. Biosafety Level 4 labs do research on deadly germs and toxins.

In Texas, the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research features an outside window that looks directly into the room where the deadly germs are handled. The lab, which is privately run, also lacks many security cameras, intrusion detection alarms or visible armed guards at its public entrances. Officials there said they will tighten security.

“We already have an initiative under way to look at perimeter security,” said Kenneth Trevett, president of the lab in San Antonio. “We’re waiting for additional input but we’re not waiting long. The GAO would like us to do some fairly significant things. They would like us to do it sooner rather than later.”

The other lab described with weak security in the report is operated by Georgia State University in Atlanta. That lab lacked complete security barriers and any integrated security system, including any live monitoring by security cameras. During their review, investigators said they watched an unidentified pedestrian enter the building through an unguarded loading dock.

“Georgia State clearly wants its BSL-4 to be as safe as possible,” said DeAnna Hines, assistant vice president for university relations. “We are already taking steps that will enhance the lab’s safety and security standards….

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