College laboratory security lacking, investigators say
College laboratory security lacking, investigators say

Online Exclusive, Nov 26 2003

Government investigators have found widespread potential for bioterrorism at many college laboratories funded by the Agriculture Department, according to a report by the Department of Agriculture's inspector general's office.
Major findings of security weakness include an unlocked freezer supervised by a college lecturer and containing a biological agent for a plague more severe than the Black Death. In another finding, research on some of the most high-risk biological agents was found to be taking place in a building that was kept open for bathroom use during night football games at a stadium a few feet away.
After inspecting 104 labs at 10 universities and a private institution during the summer of 2002, the inspector general's office urged the White House and the Homeland Security Department to take a closer look at the dangers and issue one set of standards governing security of hazardous materials. The chief finding: Many of the labs don't keep track of their biological, chemical and radioactive materials -- and those that do are rarely accurate. Just five of the labs examined have formal procedures in place for reporting missing pathogens.
Buildings housing the labs commonly lacked alarm systems, surveillance cameras, keycard devices and sign-in sheets or the use of ID badges. Doors were not always locked, and locks were left unchanged even after keys were lost or stolen.

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