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article below posted August 9, 2010    Bookmark and Share

Biodefense, Biolabs and Bugs

Seattle City Council takes an important first step to safety

from Labwatch.org

With a growing number of high-containment biolabs operating in Seattle neighborhoods, Labwatch.org commends the Seattle City Council for its unanimous support in June of a resolution urging the State of Washington to set standards for biosafety laboratories.

“Seattle is quietly becoming a hotbed of the US Biodefense program with work on dangerous pathogens taking place right under our noses.” said Mike McCormick of Labwatch.org.

In 2005 the University of Washington (UW) abandoned plans to build a new Regional Biocontainment Laboratory to house its current biodefense program. Individual citizens, businesses and neighborhood organizations opposed siting a complex that worked on dangerous infectious diseases in a densely populated neighborhood. During public hearings UW representatives stated there were over 30 similar labs at the UW and “five or six scattered thoughout the Seattle area, many in South Lake Union”. Since that time, more labs have been built in the South Lake Union area.

Known high-containment biolabs in Seattle, early 2010.
image by Labwatch.org


Contrary to what lab proponents say, accidents and safety failures at labs are not unusual. Numerous investigations (including at UW) find an ever-increasing incidence of serious problems as the number of biolabs and personnel exponentially increase. A 2009 GAO report titled “High-Containment Laboratories: National Strategy for Oversight is Needed” states “even laboratories within sophisticated biological research programs—including those most extensively regulated—have had and will continue to have safety failures.”

Last year the University of Washington helped create a second Regional Center for Biodefense & Emerging Infectious Diseases in the Pacific NW, making this area the only region in the country with two biodefense programs.

“At the same time that the UW is decommissioning half it’s high-containment biolabs due to deficiencies, it’s expanding its biodefense program. We need a vigorous citizen debate before the University of Washington goes any farther on its work with ebola, avian influenza and the recreated 1918 influenza.” says McCormick.

For more information, visit Labwatch.org.


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Comments (7)

Please keep comments polite and related to the above page.



#1 - G. Harris - 08/10/2010 - 12:30
Not to be too paranoid, just wondering what sort of sensible precautions Seattleites should take with regard to this. I wouldn't expect the Civil Defense authorities to tell me.

#2 - MikeMc - 08/12/2010 - 18:38
Hi G. Harris,

We've been pushing for local regulations of biolabs that would bring local oversight and transparency to these operations. Citizens should not only know where dangerous pathogens are being worked on in their community but have a say as to whether that work should even take place within the community.

Mike McCormick

#3 - Nona - 01/10/2012 - 20:07
That's a smart way of tihknnig about it.

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XtcIOr unorlhhuqojh

#5 - dujeys - 01/14/2012 - 04:47
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#6 - wm.Padilla - 09/15/2012 - 13:16
I do not live in Washington State, I visit to see My children, and grand-children. Citizens have a right to know.

Wm. Padilla

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