Boston City Council holds special hearing for ordnance to ban Biosafety Level 4 pathogens

The Boston City Council Committee on Government Operations held a hearing on Wednesday regarding public concerns about Biosafety Level 4 research to be conducted at the National Emergency Infectious Disease Lab in Roxbury/South End.

The Roxbury Safety Net Coalition and STOP the BU Bioterror Lab Coalition worked for 12 years to block the NEIDL laboratory, which would import pathogens such as Ebola, Marburg, Lassa and Hemorrhagic Fever to the lab for biodefense research.

BSL4 laboratories, such as one at Boston University and others established after the 2001 anthrax scare, focus on biodefense. The coalitions said government concern about bioterrorism led to overfunding high-containment labs, which decreased much-needed funding for public health research.

BSL4 laboratories work with dangerous and exotic pathogens that "pose a high individual risk of aerosol-transmitted laboratory infections and life-threatening disease that is frequently fatal, and for which there are no vaccines or treatments," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC said inadvertent release of pathogens is one of the top five health threats of 2013.

The coalitions said the Roxbuy/South End neighborhood of Boston is already greatly affected by environmental hazards and health risks. The NEIDL laboratory is located on Albany Street in a designated environmental justice neighborhood.

The lab is surrounded by the community's most at-risk population, including a women's shelter, elementary school and low income housing projects.