Secret U.S. Bio Lab Moving from Plum Island to Kansas
• Are U.S. Centers for Disease Control greatest bioterror threat?
• Planned national Bio and Agro-Defense Facility may endanger American heartland.
By Ronald L. Ray —
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and associated research facilities are supposed to be the safest and most secure medical laboratories in the world, providing cutting-edge innovations in protecting and improving human, animal and plant health. But recent near-disasters point up years of ongoing systemic failures and apparent coverups, suggesting that the CDC may pose a bioterror threat greater than the potential hazards it is supposed to mitigate.
Combine this sort of dangerous human “error” with the new National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), planned near downtown Manhattan, Kansas (2010 pop. 52,281), to replace the aging Plum Island center, and it may be only a matter of time before the heart of America is struck by a health catastrophe or depopulation event, which could quickly destroy the largest part of United States agriculture or livestock production and endanger the health and lives of millions of Americans.
In ongoing research and reporting, USA Today has exposed major safety and security lapses at the CDC’s flagship research facility in Atlanta, Georgia and elsewhere. Notable problems have been documented by the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general to extend back almost a decade, including security, access, handling and training deficiencies involving the world’s deadliest pathogens. Over 1,000 significant incidents were reported just during 2009-2012—literally a daily occurrence in a five-day work week.
This past June, CDC scientists shipped live anthrax spores, which they had failed to inactivate properly, to other laboratories. At least 86 people were exposed as a result. Because the dangerous spores may have been aerosolized, the labs had to be closed and decontaminated. In July, the Food and Drug Administration’s National Institutes of Health discovered uncatalogued, decades-old vials of live smallpox virus in cold storage at a facility.
In August, the CDC admitted that one of their scientists seriously mishandled H5N1 bird influenza, because he was in a hurry to get to a meeting. The researcher initially lied to investigators about his behavior. Contaminated virus samples were sent to another lab, which discovered the lapse when their study birds died. One official said it was only “very lucky” that something worse did not occur. Had environmental release occurred, it could have caused the poultry industry catastrophic loss and a possible transfer to human beings. Unfound, the mishandling also would have caused widespread errors in influenza research.
But when the NBAF—currently under construction— is completed, the likelihood of human, animal and plant exposure to deadly pathogens and toxins, whether accidental or intentional, will multiply significantly. Economic consequences would run into the billions of dollars. A 2009 Congressional Research Service report raised major risk issues like often-violent Kansas storms, importation of animal hoof and mouth disease to the mainland and lack of adequate containment measures. A 463-page, 2010 Department of Homeland Security risk assessment, however, appears to have whitewashed the dangers in order to obtain congressional funding.
Past efforts by this writer, who lives downwind of NBAF, to bring dangers to the attention of politicians were brushed off with vague assertions of allegedly adequate safety measures, the details of which remain conveniently “classified”. The CDC history, however, confirms the dangerous truth.
But for a perceived, relatively minor and short-term economic benefit, congresspersons and senators have sold their souls to the plutocratic demands of Big Ag, Big Pharma and the chamber of commerce, while ignoring the protests of concerned citizens.
The program manager of NBAF and the offices of Representatives Tim Huelskamp (R), who represents most of rural Kansas, and Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Energy & Commerce, all failed to respond to this newspaper’s requests for interviews.
Ronald L. Ray is a freelance author and an assistant editor of THE BARNES REVIEW. He is a descendant of several patriots of the American War for Independence.