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Hazmat Crews Clear Out Medical Campus Lab

Smoke report forces evacuation of Center for Advanced Biomedical Research

Emergency workers in hazmat suits sealed off streets surrounding the Boston University Medical Center’s Center for Advanced Biomedical Research yesterday morning, after smoke was detected in a ninth-floor corridor. Fire officials said tests of air samples found no evidence that the lab had been contaminated by chemicals or biological agents, but because the 700 Albany St. building is the site of biomedical research, they immediately evacuated the building and closed the area to traffic. Officials said the cause of the smoke, which disappeared when electricity was turned off, is still under investigation.

“With the kind of research that takes place in the building, all precautionary measures are always taken,” said Ellen Berlin, BU Medical Center’s director of corporate communications.

Berlin said that any pathogens used in research are kept in fireproof and double-locked freezers and posed no danger to staff or safety personnel. University officials said the ninth-floor lab is used for research with tularemia bacteria, a pathogen that causes rabbit fever, which is contracted through the bite of an infected tick or deer fly or by handling infected animal carcasses, especially rabbits. They said there were no releases of biological material and no injuries.

Boston Fire Commissioner Roderick J. Fraser, Jr., told reporters that the public was never in danger and that all the safety and security precautions that the laboratory takes were followed and were still in place when firefighters arrived.

Art Jahnke can be reached at jahnke@bu.edu.