Work at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s highest-security labs suddenly came to a halt because of growing concerns regarding the safety equipment researchers use when dealing with deadly viruses. More specifically, several issues have been reported about the air hoses that connect to the full-body suits that keep the scientists safe from exposure to life-threatening compounds.
Almost 100 scientists used the air hoses inside the agency’s BSL-4 (biosafety level) laboratories in Atlanta since they opened almost a decade ago, in 2008. However, they may have never been designed to be used for delivering breathable air, said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials on Friday, February 17th.
The agency further said that investigators learned about the issue on Monday, as they were proceeding to order replacement units for the first time since the inauguration of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory building, worth $214 million. However, the agency’s associate director for laboratory science and safety, Steve Monroe, says the action was being taken out of an abundance of caution and there was no need to suspect the air hoses contained any traces of toxic materials. Nevertheless, researchers at CDC will inspect the air coming out of them to be sure it meets the federal standards for breathable air. Steve Monroe expects the results to fly in next week.
According to a lab report of nearly four years ago, an air hose disconnected without warning from a researcher’s full-body suit as he was working with hazardous substances. More worrying is the fact that the scientist in question emphasized his experience by saying it happened more than once. The report was one of many that described the same issue with the air hoses.
Another scientist described how his air hose disconnected from his suit. Fortunately, his colleague rushed to his aid and held the air hose in place as best as he could. The same day, the agency issued a warning to 40 lab workers reminding them to make sure their protective full-body suits are in working order and to be most watchful of their air hoses’ connection to the suit.
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