Fort Detrick watchdog seeks state licensure, regulation for biolabs

The Containment Laboratory Community Advisory Committee, a Fort Detrick watchdog group, is seeking legislation that would require academic, nonprofit and private laboratories in Maryland to be licensed and regulated by the state.

The legislation would focus on laboratories that work with potentially hazardous materials. State Sen. Ron Young introduced the legislation this month, which would consolidate the licensing and regulation of biosafety level three and four labs under the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Frederick News-Post reports.

"It is my understanding that there are at least four labs in our area, but due to their exemption from the Freedom of Information Act, we cannot be sure of their numbers or locations," Young said, according to the Frederick News-Post.

People working in BSL-3 and BSL-4 labs frequently handle toxic and contagious agents such as Ebola and anthrax. While the labs are regulated by several federal agencies, members of the committee are worried that the labs are not operating with sufficient scrutiny to protect workers and the public.

"We need to somehow convey that this is not an albatross around progress," Ray Hunter, a committee member, said, according to the Frederick News-Post. "We should have put in place what should have been there a long time ago."

The bill would extend to existing and new facilities that grow by at least 10 percent while other labs would be grandfathered in. The bill is currently not sponsored in the state House and some worry that it would deter business growth.

"This is not cumbersome," Karen Young, a committee member and city of Frederick alderwoman, said, according to the Frederick News-Post. "This is just giving the state some responsibility for oversight."