Boston residents fear BSL-4 lab

Residents living near Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories are afraid of the escape of deadly diseases that could wreck their community.

The National Institutes of Health recently concluded that the BU BioLab poses a minimal risk to public safety, but the building’s neighbors do not appear to have been reassured. As such labs become more prevalent, the U.S. government is attempting to establish more complete standards for their operation, according to ABC News.

The BU BioLab is seeking final permission to conduct BSL-4 research on deadly agents for which there is no vaccine or cure. A federal lawsuit from the community surrounding the lab prompted the NIH to conduct a second environmental impact study that resulted in the 700-page report.

The report examines a multitude of ways an infectious disease could escape from the facility, but the Roxbury Safety Net community group says it is not enough.

“They don’t look at issues like rogue scientists,” Klare Allen, the organization’s founder said, ABC News reports.

The Roxbury Safety Net was founded in 2002 in opposition to the lab’s development. Allen said she and her colleagues have determined the report is not valid.

“The lab can be as secure as Fort Knox, but who is going to secure an individual who is tired of the system and wants to do something?” Allen said, ABC News reports.

Michael Kurilla, NIH’s director of the Office of Biodefense Research Affairs, said the issue was examined, but that the assessment remains secret.

“The reason it’s not made public is because it would be like the threat risk assessment for a bank would be how somebody could break into the vault. You don’t want to tell people the best way to do it,” Kurilla said, ABC News reports. “Insider threat is something that has obviously been on people’s minds, and a number of mechanisms have been put into place.”

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