USA Today report launches investigation into CDC bioterror labs

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is considering having U.S. Army scientists or another outside agency inspect its bioterror labs after USA Today issued a report on the safety of the labs this month.

After an investigation into the agency's $214 million Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory in Atlanta, USA Today reported problems with airflow systems, as well as fire code violations. The lab, also called Building 18, conducts experiments on such agents as anthrax, monkeypox and dangerous strains of the flu, among others, Tucson Citizen reports.

The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee is also launching an investigation into the safety of the lab. The CDC, which currently inspects itself, is considering inspection by outside agencies such as the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases or the lab safety arm of Health Canada.

The CDC has "an extraordinary track record for that building as far as safety goes," CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said, according to Tucson Citizen.

Building 18, which opened in 2005, has had a series of safety incidents involving airflow systems since at least 2007. CDC engineers are also concerned that negative air pressure could make it difficult for workers to escape in an emergency, requiring three times more
force to open a door than the fire code allows. The CDC is looking for ways to address the problem.