CDC Labs Handling Bioterror Pathogens Like Anthrax and Ebola Were Secretly Sanctioned for Safety Violations
Documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act appeal shows one of the labs had its operating permit secretly suspended in recent years for critical safety violations while working with bioterror pathogens.
The agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture operate the bio-laboratories and both run the Federal Select Agent Program that oversees government, university, military, and private labs that work with bioterror pathogens like anthrax, plague, and Ebola.
CDC facilities are among a handful of biolab operators that have the worst regulatory histories in the United States, according to USA Today.
The report says secret actions by federal regulators against CDC labs have been taken six times since 2003 due to serious or repeated violations while working with regulated bioterror-friendly agents, including viruses, bacteria, and toxins.
One of the labs operated by the CDC was suspended from doing select agent research around the year 2007 and reinstated in 2010 because of federal violations in the handling and transfer of a virus. The name of the virus was redacted by the USDA, according to USA Today.
However, the CDC downplayed the violations.
“None of these violations resulted in a risk to the public or illness in laboratory workers,” the agency told USA Today.
The CDC also detailed some of the cases that were considered violations. It said three referrals involved sending killed select agent pathogens to entities not approved to receive them; two referrals involved the discovery of select agent pathogens in un-registered CDC labs; and another involved inventory and oversight concerns.
The report comes after various concerns with the agency. In 2014, there were a series of safety incidents at the CDC headquarters in Atlanta that involved anthrax, Ebola and a deadly strain of influenza.