Investigators Spot More Anthrax Safety Lapses at U.S. Labs

An emergency response worker rests on the steps of a U.S. Senate office building during anthrax contamination tests at the U.S. Capitol in 2001. An Agriculture Department probe has revealed safety lapses involving anthrax bacteria at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
An emergency response worker rests on the steps of a U.S. Senate office building during anthrax contamination tests at the U.S. Capitol in 2001. An Agriculture Department probe has revealed safety lapses involving anthrax bacteria at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. (Paul Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

A new probe of a key U.S. health agency's failure to safely handle anthrax bacteria has revealed numerous additional breaches, Reuters reports.

A Monday congressional memorandum describes a range of violations found by outside investigators at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. The missteps -- which included carrying potentially dangerous material between facilities in Ziploc bags --  went beyond those that the medical agency identified after a June safety mishap prompted fears that dozens of its personnel may have been exposed to anthrax.

CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said his agency would "work as quickly as [it] can to respond to the issues" uncovered by the Agriculture Department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The newly revealed breaches include refrigerating anthrax in an unsecured corridor, according to the inspection service. "The key to one of the refrigerator doors sat in its lock," the congressional document states.

"At the time of inspection, containers of anthrax were missing and had to be tracked and located by the inspection team. Anthrax still was sitting in an unregistered and unlocked lab and other areas that had not been registered for special agent use or storage," the report adds.

In the aftermath of last month's feared anthrax release, workers attempted to clean facility areas using bleach they worried had passed its pull date, the report adds. In addition, potentially exposed personnel left examinations "without knowing the extent of their risk," according to the findings.

Lawmakers plan to scrutinize the findings in a Wednesday hearing, says a press release by the House Energy And Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

"Each layer we peel back in this investigation seems to reveal a new instance of carelessness," said Representative Tim Murphy (R-Penn.), the panel's chairman.

July 15, 2014
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A new probe of a key U.S. health agency's failure to safely handle anthrax bacteria has revealed numerous additional breaches, Reuters reports.

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