Via NBC News.com, a report by Maggie Fox: Anthrax Fail: Government Inspectors Warned of Lab Lapses for Years. Excerpt:
Government inspectors have been warning for years that labs used to handle dangerous agents such as anthrax have been poorly regulated and that the lack of oversight has put the public at risk, yet little has been done to heed their warnings, an official said Wednesday.
And no one’s listened to repeated calls for research to be done so that a cohesive national policy can help agencies do a better job of keeping lab workers and the public safe, a Government Accountability Office expert testified.
Yet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Tom Frieden said several startling incidents involving anthrax, smallpox and other dangerous pathogens came as a “wake-up call” to his agency.
The House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee opened a hearing Wednesday into the lapses, in which CDC workers were exposed to potential live anthrax bacteria, a USDA lab was sent a batch of avian influenza virus contaminated with highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu, and a boxfull of glass vials full of live smallpox virus was discovered squirreled away in a lab on the National Institutes of Health campus.
CDC says it's cracking down, but the GAO says the agency should not have been surprised.
“GAO’s past work has found a continued lack of national standards for designing, constructing, commissioning, and operating high-containment laboratories,” the GAO’s Nancy Kingsbury told the hearing in written, prepared testimony. “This deficiency may be more critical today than five years ago when we first reported on this concern.”