News & Events

Oct 7 2009 Biolabs: Who’s Minding the Store? Lies from BU, BMC and NIH

As most of you know, MNA has a formal position of opposition to the BSL4 lab which BU has constructed on its BMC campus in downtown Boston, and MNA has been working with community opponents to keep the lab from operating.

This critique below is from Beth Willis from Frederick, MD, home of Ft. Detrick an army facility and site of one of the first biolabs in the country. It’s an excellent commentary on BSL4 labs.   USAMRIID (Ft. Detrick) has an extensive history of both exposures and laboratory-acquired infections. According to a study by USAMRIID researchers, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in August 2004, 234 employees at USAMRIID were evaluated for exposure to 289 biological agents classified as “bioterrorist agents,” resulting in 5 confirmed clinical infections between 1989-2002. The recorded infections were from exposures to glanders, Q fever, vaccinia, chikun­gunya, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis. There were also numerous exposures to anthrax, plague, Western and Eastern equine encephalitis, ortho­poxviruses, yellow fever virus, and Rift Valley fever virus which did not lead to infections, but for which postex­posure antibiotic prophylaxis was administered (when available). For some of these diseases there is no treatment.

NEVERTHELESS that didn’t stop BU/BMC AND NIH from falsely claiming in the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) they submitted to justify construction of the lab facility that “With the longest running experience with a BSL-4 (33 years) Ft Detrick Maryland has an out­standing safety record…. Previous documented exposures at Fort Detrick in their original lab facilities mention one laboratory-acquired infection between 1959-1969 and no clinical or other infections in the more recently constructed USAMRIID facility.”


The situation is utterly outrageous. Fortunately both a MA state court judge and the Massachusetts Supreme Court (SJC) concur, having found for the position of the lab opponent plaintiffs. The court findings helped to delay operation of the lab.