Only they didn't seem to be much reassured. The Daily Free Press reports on the latest meeting on BU's biolab, which wants to bring in the world's deadliest pathogens for study.
Why not build a lab like that? Deep underground, with a nuclear detonation system in case of contamination.
And, you know, in the middle of the desert.
They tried that in Resident Evil, it did not end well.
(Yes, its just a movie)
It might have something to do with the fact that the scientists and the universities that actually do this research are in cities, not out in the middle of nowhere.
Right. However, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that researching deadly contagious diseases in a densely populated urban neighborhood is an idiotic idea.
And there are a lot of epidemiologists who think that this is one of the safest buildings you're ever going to see. In fact, there are BSL-4 labs in Atlanta and San Antonio that have operated for years without releasing anything. These labs are safe and all of the fear-mongering is unsubstantiated.
The building may be "safe", but the human factors will bite you in the arse every time.
Funny how I know SEVERAL epidemiologists at BU, including one that was on my dissertation committee, who DON'T think this is a good idea at all.
After all, the facility-based odds of Bhopal happening were nearly nil - but those risk assessments didn't account for reductions in staff and poor maintenance of systems. Ditto for 3-mile Island and Fukushima - risk estimates do not account for factors that are either unknown or poorly understood.
(I learned Risk Assessment from the current chair of the CSB ... so I guess that makes me a ignorant and fearful reactionary.)
I imagine if you were to use the original risk assessments for everything in the world, then all accidents ever were always wrong. Where's your risk assessment from the tour that pronounced that a runaway reaction at Bhopal was likely to happen DUE TO THE LACK OF MAINTENANCE? You know..the one that was based on reality after the place had gone to shit, not the one from the first day before the doors opened that said it was safer as designed than Disneyland.
Did the CSB chairman teach you to ignore reassessing the changing situation because it benefits your argument to state that "we can never see the worst case scenario coming" because you ignore the evidence when it *is* coming...
* Can't build a new airport...remember that time those terrorists took off from Logan? If they'd only listened to all of the risks of building an airport back when they started that one in Boston, then 9/11 never would have happened!
You don't even want to let BU own and operate the lab safely before you're willing to condemn them for failing to operate it safely...because you have no proof that it is unsafe in intended usage. Your argument is hypothetical nonsense (about BU failing to do maintenance) wrapped in the kind of naysaying/doomspeaking (we'll all die!) that you rail against if it's used to pass crap like the Patriot Act. So, it's bad when Republicans use your argumentation to take away liberties, but good when you use it to keep research from being done....got it.
Come on, hurry up. The John Silber Life Extension Project needs its lab space soon, otherwise it will have to be the John Silber Reanimation Project.
Like any other large corporation, universities care more for what their researchers or reputations bring to the media to generate more income. They don't care about people anywhere. re: Harvard The tacit sentiment is "If you don't like it, move."
Should be bitch slapped any chance we get.
Exploding manholes and transformer fires pose more of a risk than this Biolab will. People need to desperate fiction from reality a bit better. Movies are not real, and labs like this are some of the most secure facilities outside of the military.
That must be why one of the most hard-ass rational scientists I've encountered, BU Prof. David Ozonoff, eventually decided this biolab thing was a really bad idea.
He's irrationally fearful. Yeah, that's it.
All these guys are just being irrational and should be head-patted/bitchslapped.
I've looked through some of his arguments before and it basically boils down to "I don't like what it *sounds* like they *might* be doing with this" and "We could spend this money doing so many other more important health-related research that isn't BSL-4". He doesn't ever provide any evidence that it wouldn't be safe to do the research. He argues from a very non-scientific point of view for the tearing down of the Biolab. *He* doesn't like what he *thinks* it's for...so he's fighting against it.
I'm not sure why people act as if we don't already house these things in the US already in places like San Antonio, Bethesda, Atlanta, Fredrick...all those BSL-4s and not one accidental (or intentional) release of anything. But put it in their city and suddenly, it's "28 Days Later" just waiting to happen.
For the community that the risks are imposed upon is "silly" and illogical to you?
Do a google search - Ozonoff does have some valid scientific critique not found in the student newspaper articles, too.
Link them here. I found a set of slides he presented at MIT in 2007 on the topic. Not one reference to anything inferring the danger he claims there to be. Lots of conjecture and inference and hand-waving, but zero references.
Seriously. Let's see your numbers.
In the case of the State Lab, they are obvious: identifying, containing, and preventing outbreaks of disease.
What does this facility provide to the community to offset the risks it poses - risks that the BU administration has NEVER been forthcoming about?
You're absolutely right...nobody anywhere will benefit from this being built. What was BU thinking just throwing all this money into a giant hole in the ground and then pouring toxic waste into the city water pipes...or something.
Disease cures, jobs, federal research dollars...
Hell, the intake air from the neighborhood is going through more filters than anywhere else in the world and being sent back outside CLEANER than when it came in! If nothing else, it's the world's biggest HEPA filter!
Now, what risks (real risks, not imaginary movie ones with killer monkeys and ninja-suited terrorists) again?
it's bad for Boston because of the ridiculous blowback and hysterics he probably got, is not the same thing as it being bad period.
hard evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the biolab is that unsafe? Answer, because then they'd find out they don't have a legitimate case to object to it.
This is just another example of a growing problem with society: that ANYTHING proposed by ANYBODY is automatically presumed to pose an unacceptable threat to our well being and/or will cause great and irreparable harm to the environment, and that the burden of proof to show otherwise must always fall on the project proponent, no matter how outrageous the claims may be.
And, this is another one of the reasons government is so broke and can't get anyting done in a timely and cost-efficent manner. All the studies and hearings and public meetings and "mitigation" efforts to appease the opponents to projects like the biolab cost money (you guessed it - the taxpayer's money) and unnecessarily delay important projects (Somerville Green Line Extension as an example).
All it takes is a failure to predict the consequences of something reasonably predictable (Fukushima) or cutting staffing and maintenence schedules (Bhopol) and all the "proper" risk assessment in the world won't help you.
In 1990, a Fukushima event of failure due to seawater exposure in earthquake risk zones WAS predicted by the US Nuclear Reactor Commission and in 2004, Japan's own NISA cited that study. However, the company put in charge of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors ignored it and did nothing to upgrade their safety/security to prevent what was predicted. These are also reactors that were created and started in the 70's. The ones built at Fukushima only a decade later took some damage, but never released pressure or reached the same problems as Daiichi because they were built better. The problem with Daiichi wasn't one of predictability but one of oversight and regulation on an aging facility that shouldn't have even still been running. It has nothing to do with the complaints against the BU Biolab.
The same goes for Bhopal, although I'm less familiar with it. There were inspections that pointed out the likelihood of the problem. The facility was kept completely under-maintained with broken valves and such. Their own safety protocols were not followed which led to the runaway reaction in the storage tank that should never have even been close to the right conditions had their own protocols been met and/or the government had appropriate regulation and oversight in place. Again, neither of these things are being argued about with the BU Biolab.
The arguments have never been "oh, but you'll just screw up maintenance and THEN we'll all die". It has always been that the Biolab, in and of itself, is a hazard even if everything is going according to plan.
However, the company put in charge of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors ignored it and did nothing to upgrade their safety/security to prevent what was predicted.
We all know what a logical, benevolent person they have had as their Dear Leader for a long time.
What gives you such faith that they won't cut staff or otherwise bungle various protective systems?
However, if they are checked and double-checked through regulations and requirements designed by agencies and experts in the field, then at some point I'm convinced it can be safe.
If you don't trust them to adequately staff or maintain the facility, then you haven't hired enough regulators. If you don't think the particular research aims can be accomplished safely without all the oversight in the world ever, then nothing they do will ever satisfy you and it's easy to write you off as a lunatic who doesn't deserve a spot at the discussion table with the grown-ups.
of these type of labs is much, much stricter than that of Nuclear facilities. The latter has had quite a bit of regulatory capture due to the huge amounts of money involved.
Put it simply BU doesn't have that kind of cash or influence and will have regulators breathing down their neck the whole time.
Does anyone know what level pathogens are studies over at the State Lab in Jamaica Plain?
The state lab generally only deals with what is already out in the community.
For example, my lab tech at HSPH and I were finding dead birds when I would commute in along the Muddy River paths or he would run them in the morning hours when the West Nile Virus thing was emerging. We would bag and tag them and take them up to the State Lab in JP.
So they were messing with West Nile - but only that which came from the community to start with. They handle tuberculosis as well as tularemia if there is an outbreak or sentinel case.
Would the state labs have been involved in the investigation into the BU tularemia outbreak?
... they might defer to OSHA/NIOSH or the CDC depending on the situation.
If landscapers were infected, or there was an outbreak from people playing with sick bunnies along the BU Beach, they very likely would be involved.
The State Lab wouldn't be attempting to weaponize tularemia, west nile, pneumonic plague, or hantavirus, though.
This is a place to study some of the most INFECTIOUS diseases, but those are almost entirely NOT the most CONTAGIOUS diseases. This is a scientific and medical distinction the media and other places do not report enough.
In other words, it's easy for these diseases to kill you...but it's not all that easy for them to get to you in the first place.
Think of HIV. If your blood were exposed to the virus, it would grow easily within you to the point that it took over and you died.
However, you can easily shake hands with someone with HIV without worrying that you're going to die from HIV. Highly infectious, but not contagious without specific categories of contact.
Ebola is exactly the same thing. Its virus can transmit by blood and body fluids, but not by air. But everyone thinks "Outbreak" was real and the virus is just going to go airborne at any given second and kill us all.
If it is not close it is safer.
One of the things they may be planning to do with these infectious agents is to weaponize them - which could include changing them to make them communicable (contageous or more contageous) via routes that lead to community epidemics.
BU officials have not been very forthcoming about that issue - even if such alterations were done to test defenses against weaponized pathogens.
This isn't necessarily difficult to do - influenza virus varies enormously both in its lethality and communicability - the 1918 virus hit the jackpot on both counts, but there isn't all that much genetically different between that virus and other influenza viruses that circulate from year to year.
How forthcoming do you want them to be? Will it only be when they break down and announce their intention all along was to create bioweapons, that you'll suddenly then believe them?
July 2004 statement including "no bioweapons"
It was so "not forthcoming" that it was one of the first things they ever stated on the project AND have always maintained.
Also, your nonsense about modifying BSL-4 classified agents into weaponized pathogens being "not necessarily difficult to do" is bogus psuedo-science. Ebola and Marbug viruses are filoviruses. You can't just add magical influenza genes to them and make them fly through the air. Most weaponization work is in how to aerosolize the virus into a liquid that they won't die in before they reach your mucus membranes...an engineering question; not in genetic modification to enhance its infectivity...a biological question.
Furthermore, you only need BSL-3 to do most influenza viral work. There are at least 250 locations in the US that have BSL-3 level labs and at least 10 of those are already in Boston.
would it be that outrageous for it to be build 30 or 40 miles outside of Boston on a 100 acre parcel that doesn't have people so close. They should not only protect civilians by the use of the latest safety gadgets but by the age old one..."DISTANCE". What are the reasons for being right in Boston? Is it only so the workers/scientist can have access to city perks like Starbucks? I ask again, WHY IN THE CITY?
into the facility?
Probably less death and disease than all of the emergency responders acquired in the days after 9/11 from inhaling toxic building materials used in the WTC buildings.
If the facility cannot withstand the type of terror attack we know is possible, perhaps it shouldn't be in a highly populated area.
You do realize that will never, ever happen again for at least 3 generations. It only worked 3/4 the first time, since flight 93 figured out what was going on.
Planes will no longer be used as weapons, save some pilot / co-pilot death pact.
But, there's always Aliens to worry about.
Pilots are Americans. And an American would never commit a terrorist attack, like, say on an Army base or something. That's some solid early 20th century thinking there.
From the beginning, opposition to this project has been the result of political fear-mongering from the left whipped up by people who call themselves scientists. In addition, BU did a TERRIBLE job of public relations rolling this project out. Time, money and talent, in the form of other scientists moving to other cities to do this kind of work, has been wasted.
As others have noted, the impetus and the money for the lab came out of 9/11 and the concerns for bioterrorism. BU took advantage of that opportunity to expand.
Many of those on the left were NEVER going to accept any initiatives coming out of the Bush administration, no matter how warranted. The objectivity of some "scientists" has been so obviously biased against this project from the start. They're NEVER going to change their minds, no matter what evidence or assurances are offered.
Sorry to say, it's not only anti-evolution "scientists" on the right who are biased.
...I worked for BU's Occupational Safety and Health department. Let's just say that what I saw didn't make me terribly confident in BU, or their ability to address disaster. More properly, they were really adept in how to make disaster disappear.