John McHugh, the Army Secretary, was forced to close operations occurring in four Defense Department labs which were in charge with handling biological toxins. It was a decision that had to be made because the army, somehow, managed to ship live anthrax to a large number of labs. Yes, you read that right: live anthrax was shipped over the world. Not only has it been shipped in America, but around the world as well.
In a Thursday memo, McHugh advised that a safety-stand down should be taken into consideration. A large investigation will be conducted around nice department labs which were involved in the production, handling and shipment of biological toxins. The Army Secretary demanded that a thorough review be done in 10 days.
While the majority of the labs are in the U.S., there are some in Peru and Egypt. The U.S. labs that are being investigated are in Utah, Ohio, Virginia, Massachusetts and Maryland. This raises concern not only for the areas in which these labs are situated, but for the staff that has to undergo daily procedures within these facilities.
The new order makes reference to the moratorium which was announced earlier this year, in July. The moratorium specifically suspended any activity that had something to do with anthrax. All the labs were cautioned to inspect their safety procedures, training, equipment maintenance, all practices with toxins and the way records are kept to ensure transparency and safety.
McHugh mentioned in his memo that he is aware that these orders will meddle with the standard procedures and the work speed in the laboratories, but he insisted that if they are to resume the restricted activities, labs must receive a direct approval from him only. If the standards are not met, the activities remain shut down until further notice.
The Pentagon stepped in and said that the Army’s Dugway Providing Ground from Utah had such samples of live anthrax and that they were transported to another 194 laboratories. The shipment simply encountered a snowball effect. While the initial samples were sent to 88 U.S. labs and another 7 countries, some of these labs further sent them to other facilities, raising the number of exposed labs by more than a half.
We can only hope that the issue is going to be dealt with quickly. There have yet to be any illnesses reported, but staff have already proceeded to take medication to avoid the worst possible situations. Anthrax is supposed to be destroyed in these facilities with gamma rays, so, for the moment, we need to see if all threats are going to be eliminated before further investigation will be carried out.
Photo Credits hngn.com