President Obama orders changes to toxin and pathogen storage

On July 2, President Obama ordered an array of far-reaching changes to the manner of securing dangerous toxins and pathogens in the United States.

Under the executive order, United Press International reports, the federal regulations governing Biological Select Agents and Toxins will be consolidated and overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture. Additional support is to be offered by the Department of Justice and the FBI.

The changes to BSAT storage security rules were made after an administration-led review of existing procedures and will be implemented, in part, to ease fears of bioterrorism.

“The expansion in the last 10 years of the infrastructure and resources dedicated to BSAT work, coupled with the discovery that the perpetrator of the 2001 anthrax attacks may have been a U.S. government employee, underlines the need to ensure BSAT are properly secured against possible misuse or attempts to harm people, animals, plants or the environment," a White House official, quoted by the UPI, said.,

The new policy requires that the risks associated with each toxin be updated and revised, while also requiring that a federal security advisory panel begin to monitor the various security and personnel issues that working with BSAT entails. It also orders federal agencies to report their planning for BSAT storage.

Some BSAT pathogens held by various U.S. government agencies include the 1918 influenza virus, the Ebola virus, Lassa fever, botulinum toxin and pathogenic avian influenza.