Congressional watchdogs demand names, details of sanctioned bioterror labs

Bipartisan leaders of a congressional oversight committee, citing a USA TODAY Network investigation, are demanding federal regulators provide the names of research laboratories that have faced sanctions for safety violations while working with potential bioterror viruses and bacteria, according to a letter the committee sent Monday.

USA TODAY’s “Biolabs in Your Backyard” investigation revealed that more than 100 labs have faced enforcement actions since 2003 because of serious safety violations while working with “select agent” pathogens such as anthrax. Yet lab oversight is cloaked in secrecy, making it difficult to determine the effectiveness of the federal inspection and enforcement program.

Even when labs commit the most egregious safety violations, the investigation found, they often are allowed to keep operating and their names are kept secret by regulators.

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