Strengthening of nation's biosecurity applauded

The Association of Public Health Laboratories has applauded the Working Group on Strengthening the Biosecurity of the United States for its recent findings in regards to the efficiency of existing policies on security in public health laboratories.

The APHL, however, has called the proposed requirement for security checks of lab scientists "superfluous" as the environment in which public health labs operate is highly regulated.

The APHL has instead recommended that the Working Group direct its efforts toward the enhancement for oversight, standardization of personnel training, incident reporting and laboratory certification rather than attempting to detect traits or individuals who could pose an insider threat.

The Working Group had proposed potential mandatory psychological examinations of lab personnel, which the APHL says would place undue burdens on labs that are already overburdened and understaffed.

The Working Group's proposal would also require the creation of a secured storage and maintenance of employee medical records, which would be incurred at the cost of the federal government.

Lab scientists are already required to participate in the federal security clearance process.

"State and local public health laboratories promote a culture of biosafety and biosecurity throughout their operations and especially in the laboratory suites that perform work utilizing select agents and highly pathogenic toxins," Susan Neill, president of APHL, said. "These actions, which protect the community served by the laboratory as well as its workforce, are required to conduct the tests that protect the public's health."