Science

CDC Halts Work At Top Security Germ Lab over Air Hose Safety

By Charles Omedo , Feb 18, 2017 03:34 AM EST
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Faulty air hoses at CDC's $214 million Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory facility in Atlanta have prompted the agency to halt lab activities at the facility. The air hoses are connected to the protective suits worn by lab scientists to enable them breathe fresh air inside a lab that is brimming with deadly viruses. About 100 lab workers use the air hose inside biosafety level 4 labs operated by CDC before the shutdown.

The air hoses have a history of malfunctioning in the lab

Some years ago, USA TODAY carried out a number of investigations on CDC top security germ labs and found that the air hoses used in these labs have a history of disconnecting while in use. This could expose lab scientists to denizens of lethal pathogens such as Ebola virus among others. Investigations however revealed that CDC had been covering up these lab accidents until a federal request forced them to own up, USA TODAY reveals.

Due to this Federal of Information Act request pushed by USA TODAY, an unnamed CDC scientist wrote in 2013 that his air hose connector actually came off while working on deadly pathogens in the lab. CDC acted immediately by cautioning lab scientists to ensure their protective suits are in order to prevent exposure to deadly germs. This information might not have come out if a federal push had not been applied on CDC.

The air hoses are not certified for breathable air

Following subtle pressure, CDC's associate director for laboratory science and safety, Steve Monroe, revealed that his agency had been in touch with the manufacturer of the lab air hose. Although he wouldn't mention the company, he stated the company revealed that the air hoses were not certified to breathe safe air in lab settings. He however said his agency has been transparent enough about the issue to halt lab work at the facility, the New York Times wrote.

Monroe clarified that the CDC has been able to find a manufacturer that is able to fix the faulty air hoses and enable them to connect tightly with protective lab suits. He added that some shipment of the modified hoses will be obtained by Friday evening and that more will be obtained as work progresses in the lab. The air hoses supply purified, breathable air into the worn lab protective gear so that scientists could be insulated from fatal infectious germs at work.

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