Emergency Preparedness Drill at Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories This Week
Emergency Preparedness Drill at Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories This...
By Lauren Landry (From BostInno), January 11, 2012
The National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL), better known as the Boston University Biolab, has been controversial from the get-go. Located on the University’s medical campus in the South End, you can guess from the lab’s name alone why people in the neighborhood would be weary about it opening. Despite plans to study some of the world’s deadliest germs, however, such as the Ebola virus and plague, Mayor Menino’s concluded the lab wouldn’t be a detriment to the community.
In hopes of highlighting the safety features and prospective economic impact the lab could have on the state, Mayor Menino led a tour of the facilities yesterday. Completed in 2008, the lab’s remained nearly inactive due to legal and regulatory holdups, according to the Boston Business Journal. Although Massachusetts environmental officials granted preliminary approval to begin level-2 research back in December, a spokeswoman from Boston University said the school wasn’t abandoning plans to eventually use about 16 percent of the building as a biosafety level-4 lab.
Only one of two biosafety level-4 labs in the country, the 192,000-square-foot facility could bring the state $98 million per year, including $45 million in research grants from several agencies, including the National Institutes of Health. Boston University administrators said the project would also create 297 new jobs, 30 to 40 of which have already been filled.
“These are great opportunities for collaboration between the private sector and the public sector,” Menino said to the Boston Business Journal. “We’re going to be able to attract more of the world’s renowned researchers to help find the cures to some of these diseases. We’ve always been an innovator in this area, and this is another step forward.”
Cameras have already been placed throughout the facility, while each floor has an eye scanner to identify workers. Researchers in the level-4 labs are also expected to wear $2,600 space suits, breathe filtered air and take a seven minute chemical shower in the suit before leaving the lab, and those are only a few of the security and safety features.
To respond to the naysayers, such as the neighborhood group Safety Net, Menino said, “We probably have more stringent rules and regulations of any city in the country.”
The National Institutes of Health is in the final stages of a risk assessment of NEIDL, which will include a public hearing that was initially scheduled for February 16th. According to the Boston Globe, that hearing was postponed, allowing for more time to finalize the draft report. A new date has yet to be determined, but the best estimate is that biosafety level-4 research would not begin until October 2013 at the earliest.
In December, following the approval of Boston University’s level-2 research, Klare Allen, a community organizer with Safety Net, said to the Globe, “All the Safety Net and coalition group is trying to do is to make sure that the city of Boston is truly safe. This is a fight for our safety and for us to know what the hell is cooking in our backyard.”
What we see cooking are nearly 300 jobs and millions of dollars in funding. If the lab is found to be safe, what’s the problem? Sure, something could go wrong, but things could always go wrong with anything. Currently, the benefits appear to outweigh any potential risks.
But, what do you think? Do you consider this new biolab being a true hazard to the city?