(FinalCall.com) – American labs handling the world’s deadliest germs and toxins have experienced more than 100 accidents and missing shipments since 2003, and the number is increasing as more labs do the work, according to a Government Accountability Organization (GAO) report released during the first week of October.
In an Associated Press review of confidential reports submitted to federal regulators, it was revealed that mishaps include workers bitten or scratched by infected animals, skin cuts, needle sticks and more accidents involving anthrax, bird flu virus, monkey pox and plague-causing bacteria at 44 labs in 24 states.
“The 36 accidents and lost shipments reported so far in 2007 are nearly double the entire amount for 2004,” stated a story on the Security Management website.
The story also noted that the number of labs approved by the government has doubled to 409 since 2004.
“It may be only a matter of time before our nation has a public health incident with potentially catastrophic results,” Edward Hammond of the Texas-based Sunshine Project (www.sunshine-project.org) told The Final Call.
The Sunshine Project is a bio-safety pressure group. “I am a bio-safety watchdog,” Mr. Hammond said.
There are now 20,000 people at the over 400 sites around the U.S. working with putative bio-weapons germs such as tularemia, brucellosis and Q fever, says Mr. Hammond. “Some scientists have warned that more people handling dangerous germs are a recipe for accidents,” he noted.
According to Mr. Hammond, it was an incident with Q fever at Texas A&M University that started him on the path to force the release of minutes from the university bio-safety committee using the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. The minutes are accessible to the public by law, he said.
Some of the other accidents he uncovered, which are reported on NewScientist.com: The University of New Mexico, a worker was jabbed with an anthrax-laden needle, and another with a syringe containing an undisclosed, genetically engineered microbe; Medical University of Ohio, workers are exposed to and infected with Valley Fever; University of Calif. Berkeley, workers handled deadly Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which spread in the air, without containment when it was mislabeled as harmless.
Officials at the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) testifying at a recent hearing of the House Energy and Commerce investigations committee, said none of the accidents have been serious in outcome. However, Dr. Richard Besser, the CDC’s anti-terrorism coordinator, told the committee hearing the agency is looking at ways to improve its inspection program.
The CDC inspects high-security research labs once every three years, but there are additional inspections when an accident is reported. “And, there-in lies the problem,” states Mr. Hammond. “Research institutions want to avoid losing funds, so, they don’t report accidents.”
We are creating a culture of denial about lab accidents, insists Mr. Hammond.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which funds most of the lab research and construction, spent approximately $41 million on bio-defense labs in 2001, but after 9/11, the spending has increased to $1.6 billion.
“This is money that is actually degrading our safety and security,” Richard Ebright, a Rutgers University microbiologist told the Chicago Tribune back in 2004. “Every dollar spent on these facilities puts the U.S. at higher risk, not lower risk of being subject to bio-weapons attacks,” he added.
“I think the answer is to create a level playing field by having clear and absolutely mandatory reporting requirements,” insists Mr. Hammond.
For Dr. Alim Muhammad, the Nation of Islam’s National Minister of Health, there are serious questions that deserve answers:
“Why do such toxins and germs exist in the first place? Their very existence is illegal and against international treaties, not to mention common morality and common sense. What is the murderous intent behind the acquisition of such weapons? Why has there been no progress in solving the mystery behind the weaponized anthrax release targeting U.S. Senators in 2001?
“What about the release of tularemia on the Washington Mall just days before the Millions More Movement in Oct. 2005? Are these accidents? What about the recent detection of six nuclear armed cruise missiles illegally flown over U.S. territory with one of the six reported missing? Is this a set up for an attack on Iran or a false-flag nuclear attack on U.S. citizens? Don’t these questions deserve answers?” he asks.