CDC Director Admits to Safety Issues at Labs

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2014-07_6ee3790233.jpgMandel Ngan//AFP/Getty Images (WASHINGTON) -- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Thomas Frieden faced tough questions from lawmakers Wednesday on safety lapses at agency labs. Members of Congress grilled Frieden about lax storage and the exposure of lab workers to potentially lethal anthrax samples being kept in Ziplock bags. Following questions from Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and others, Frieden said the agency "missed the broader pattern" and made little excuses for past incidents.

Murphy noted that since 2007, there have been 17 reports of a CDC worker being potentially exposed to a select agent or toxin, while Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) claimed there were four reports in the past decade where dangerous pathogens were shipped offsite inappropriately.

“Our investigation has uncovered this is not CDC’s first wake-up call,” Murphy said. “Despite the number of red flags, these incidents keep happening… These practices put the health of the American public at risk. It is sloppy, and it is inexcusable.”

In response, Frieden outlined steps to improve lab safety culture, including the closing of two laboratories involved in the incidents and the appointment of Dr. Michael Bell as the official in charge of agency safety.

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