Boston Blog

Cause of fire at BU lab determined

Last month, the evacuation of a research building at BU Medical Center due to smoke made front-page news, further fueling public fears about the safety of biomedical labs in Boston.

Today, the Globe reports the cause of that fire in the BSL-3 lab: trash stuck sitting for two weeks in an autoclave whose door wouldn’t open. When the door was fixed, the garbage still wasn’t removed and was left over the weekend. After the weekend, a researcher did open the door, then closed it again without sealing it. Officials think air let in somehow triggered a fire.

BU is not looking very good in this article. When asked by the Globe why the garbage wasn’t removed before the weekend, Stephen Morash, BU’s manager for emergency planning and response said this:

>_"That’s a good question. I wish I had a good answer for you."_

He added that if the garbage was removed on the Friday, this wouldn’t have happened.

To make things worse, Boston’s Public Health Commission wasn’t notified right away.

>_Lab safety regulations adopted by the city in 2006 require that certain serious incidents be reported immediately to the health commission._

>_University officials said that because the incident did not result in injuries or the spilling of dangerous materials, there was no need to immediately alert the city._

>_"What we said to them is that the regulations say any incidents that happen in a BSL-3 lab, we need to be notified ASAP," said Leon Bethune, director of the Health Commission’s Environmental Health Office._

At least some people at BU are coming clean that they need to make changes to improve safety.

>_"We learned some things we could do better and will do better," said Jack Murphy, chief of the section of molecular medicine at BU._

But this certainly doesn’t earn BU more trust from the public, now that they’re trying to win public confidence with their new BSL-4 lab under construction.


Comments are closed.