June 22, 2008

Critics Worry About Duct-Taped Germ Lab

A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laboratory is using duct tape to seal a room where deadly bacteria experiments are performed, officials say.

The duct tape was placed around the edges of the containment door at the $214 million Atlanta lab a year ago, after the building's ventilation system malfunctioned and pulled potentially contaminated air out of the lab and into a clean hallway, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Sunday.

At the time, nine CDC workers were tested for potential exposure to the Q fever bacteria being studied in the lab, CDC officials said this week.

The CDC Q fever lab's air containment systems have since worked properly, agency officials said.

The lab is safe and poses no risk to workers, yet the duct tape remains in place.

It's an enhancement, said Patrick Stockton, CDC safety and occupational health manager. We could take it off.

Critics, however, are not so sure.

Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, said the duct tape use calls into question the CDC's self-inspection policy.

I highly doubt that the CDC would accept duct-taped doors on the privately owned bio labs it inspects, Dingell said Friday.