Toxins and Pathogens

Gloria Galloway’s Globe and Mail article “Government moves to restrict access to toxins and pathogens”  is not the most reassuring view I’ve ever read on such a subject.

The words of Theresa Tam, director-general of the Public Health Agency of Canada, in no way inspire confidence, though I am pleased to learn that someone is thinking of all this.

Consider theses words from Galloway’s post:

Laboratories – local community labs that diagnose disease, as well as university and government research labs – are required to follow bio-safety guidelines before they can import pathogens, explained Theresa Tam, director-general of the Public Health Agency of Canada.

But, said Dr. Tam, “there is a gap in that laboratories that do not import pathogens currently fall outside the existing regulations.”

Most technicians follow a regime that has become accepted practice when dealing with human pathogens. The really bad bugs such as anthrax, for instance, are stored only at the Health Canada Level 4 laboratory in Winnipeg.

We certainly believe that laboratories, many of them, voluntarily comply with existing laboratory bio-safety guidelines and that, in general, laboratories are safe in Canada,” said Dr. Tam.

But there is a clear need, she said, for people working with the highest-risk pathogens to obtain a security clearance. The new legislation, which was originally introduced last year but died when the fall election was called, would do that.

Under the new law, no one who is not licensed by the government would be permitted to possess, produce, store, transfer or dispose of a human pathogen or toxin.

In addition, the disease-causing materials would be divided into categories, according to the level of risk they present, and technicians would be required to handle them accordingly. (Bold Added)

 Wow. The government seems fairly certain that “many” laboratories are voluntarily following the guidelines and that, “in general, laboratories are safe in Canada.”

My obvious questions to those charged with creating and enforcing such rules are:

What have you all been doing up til now? 

When did you decide that this might be a good idea?

The overall impression that I received from the article is that no one actually knows what the hell they’re doing or what is going on in these labs.

Incredible.

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