After 15 years, Deadly Disease Research Lab nears Approval in Boston

Original article from Boston 25 News. May 30, 2017

BOSTON – A lab to study deadly diseases like Ebola and bubonic plague is just one vote away from approval in the heart of Boston. Supporters say it will speed the development of new vaccines and cures.  But after 15 year of fighting, the neighborhood that’s home to the lab is making a final push to keep the diseases away from the busy urban hub.

“It’s the environment. When you open up your window, you see what we’re smelling. That’s what they’re smelling in their house,” said Roxbury activist Klare Allen.

Allen has been fighting for decades to keep her neighborhood safe, and says she’s seen record high asthma rates among the children and cancer rate in adults. She made it a personal mission to stop a level 4 Biosafety lab from operating in Boston’s South End.

Boston University received a $200 million federal grant in 2003 to build the regional lab.  The goal was to study deadly diseases. But critics say contaminants could spread region-wide when research material is transferred between labs.

A campaign issue for local leaders

Roxbury City Councilor and Boston mayoral candidate Tito Jackson is making the Biolab one of his campaign issues, saying the area is tired of being a dumping ground.

“There are at least two trash transfer stations. There’s also a highway. There’s a jail. In addition there’s three methadone clinics. It’s not a ‘not in my backyard’, but it can’t all be in the backyard of that neighborhood,” said Jackson.

Boston University maintains, residents will be safe, and conducts tours like to anyone who requests them.

In a statement B.U. told Boston 25: “The issues you raise have all been addressed many times over the past decade by independent panels of scientists; by federal, state and city agencies; and by a federal and state court. In every case the conclusion is that the lab can be operated safely in its location.”


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