Directors of America’s biolabs have admitted to hundreds of dangerous accidents in the past two decades, but even incidents involving exposure to deadly viruses have been kept from public view, an investigation by The Intercept has revealed.
“People have it in their minds that lab accidents are very, very rare, and if they happen, they happen only in the least well-run overseas labs,” Rutgers University molecular biologist Richard Ebright told the media outlet. “That simply isn’t true.”
The erroneous public perception could stem from the fact that, as The Intercept found, Americans don’t hear about US biolab accidents. The outlet obtained more than 5,500 pages of laboratory incident reports from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), compelling the agency to release the documents through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Many lab mishaps are reported to the NIH, the world’s largest funder of biomedical research, but the agency doesn’t pass on the information to the public, even in cases involving Level 3 and Level 4 biolabs.