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US government labs plan biohazard-safety sweep

The unexpected discovery of smallpox in a refrigerator at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, on 9 July has apparently sparked some soul searching in the US government. On 27 August, the NIH designated September as “National Biosafety Stewardship Month,” encouraging researchers to inventory their freezers for potentially dangerous agents such as pathogens and toxins, and review their biosafety protocols. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) did the same in a memo released on 28 August, suggesting “a government-wide ‘safety stand‐down,’” and “strongly urging” both federal agencies and independent labs to complete these steps within the month. 


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