Military reviewing rules on deadly toxin shipments

By | August 22, 2008

Military leaders have suspended some activities at biological research laboratories to review safety rules for some of the world’s deadliest germs and toxins, including how they are shipped through FedEx and other civilian carriers.

Defense officials said the action is part of a larger review, ordered when a researcher at an Army lab committed suicide last month after being told that he would be charged in the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people.

Navy and Air Force officials said Thursday that they are temporarily halting shipments of dangerous biological agents to and from their medical and research labs.

They also said that during the review, they won’t allow any employees to handle such materials inside their labs unless the employee is enrolled in a special program to do so or monitored by someone who is enrolled.

The Army also said for the first time Thursday that it had halted it shipments from August 8-14 for a similar review of procedures — and then tightened some.

The Army has six, the Navy five and the Air Force two labs where biomedical research is done to support counterterrorism efforts, research protection for the armed forces and keep track of infectious diseases around the globe. Employees work with a range of dangerous materials such as anthrax and germs that cause avian flu and encephalitis.

All such Navy material “is accounted for, and none has been compromised. A thorough inventory will be a part of this stand-down,” said Cmdr. Jeff A. Davis, a Navy spokesman, using the military term for a suspension of activities. – cnn

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