Thursday, June 26, 2008



What do I do? Where do I go for help?


Before you go to anyone, the first and foremost issue to remember is to PROTECT YOURSELF by wearing protective gear (gloves, safety glasses & labcoat) while in the laboratory at all times. This unfortunately will not protect you fully in certain instances. For example, if your co-workers use techniques that create aerosolized particles, you will need a respirator. Protection can be impossible also if you are designated to have your office directly in the laboratory where you are not afforded personal protection. If this is the case, ask (nicely demand?) your supervisor for an office outside the lab.


Do not take your observations of unsafe biosafety practices or unauthorized use of biological agents lightly. Recombinant BL2 (biosafety level 2) DNA labs at your local university or pharmaceutical company are now quite dangerous. Many scientists working in molecular biology BL2 labs do not even realize the dangerous work that is occurring around them. It is now common practice for BL2 research laboratories to generate genetically engineered viruses in order to make specific disease-state cellular or animal models. These viruses can be engineered to contain VSV-G coats enabling the virus to become broadly infectious to human’s eyes, mouth, and through inhalation. Not only can they infect humans this way, but also, other mammals and insects.

Despite your best efforts to protect yourself, you may still be at a high risk for exposure. If your co-workers are not trained (which many are not), not technically skilled or a just plain careless regarding safety protocol, you could be in danger. Also someone might actually bring in an infectious agent into your workspace without notifying you. It can happen. Always protect yourself as best as you can.


If you have seen one unsafe lab practice, know many more violations have been performed that you have not seen. It is very dangerous. You must bring these issues forward to your supervisor. If your supervisor does not address and correct the issue(s) immediately (and it should be immediately…not a couple of weeks later), then you have a problem. Make sure that you now start documenting everything from this point forward.


My advice to you at this time would be to quit your job. Getting sick from a biological agent or some “unknown” agent in the lab can cause permanent health problems. You also will have no rights to exposure records to obtain medical care. The research industry will not admit to any wrong doing. You will be abandoned, sick and may even be unable to work. It is not worth it. If your supervisor does not take your biosafety concerns seriously and with immediate action, leave your job if you are able.

If you have a wife, husband or kids to feed and cannot afford to quit your job, then you REALLY have a problem. You are in a sticky situation. The reason being is that there is no effective federal whistleblower’s protection to protect you from retaliation and black-listing. Going “above your boss” regarding addressing biosafety issues, places you in vulnerable situation no matter what. I guarantee, your boss will not be pleased and in fact will be very angry. I do not want to frighten you into doing nothing, to stay in a job and become sick; but before you start shooting fireworks about unaddressed safety issues or public health and safety issues you should be aware of how the system works .

Unfortunately at this point, after your supervisor does not address your safety concerns and you cannot afford to quit your job, it is time to seek council with an attorney to best protect yourself. Unfortunately, hiring an attorney will cost you money (between $300-$1000). But it is a necessary step in order to protect yourself.


Do not go to OSHA without consulting an attorney. There are four very real and negative issues regarding OSHA. 1) OSHA’s personnel are not sophisticated enough nor trained to understand recombinant DNA technologies. 2) OSHA provides little to no effective legal protection for today’s biotech worker, since it was originally legislated in 1975 and intended for chemical exposures. 3) OSHA has a history of negligence in duty 4) Going to OSHA can actually harm you further even when you bring forward legitimate biosafety and public health concerns to them.

Despite the fact that OSHA tells you that you do not need an attorney to file a complaint, it is unwise not to have one. Let your attorney advice you on how you should proceed at each step with them.


Bringing your safety complaints to NIH might be an avenue for those working in academia since academic laboratories are mandated to follow NIH guidelines. But always consult an attorney first. Again, you may very well get black-listed or retaliated against, if your workplace finds that you have contacted NIH. An NIH official might very well be friends with your boss. As you know, it is a small -closely networked world in the scientific community. Have an attorney to council you.

Private industry is not under any jurisdiction to follow NIH guidelines. So, if you work for a biotech company or pharmaceutical company, NIH cannot and will not help you. Seek legal advice immediately.


Your state public health department may have some jurisdiction to help you. But again, be careful. Many of the state public health departments give favorable bias toward industries and research facilities that provide jobs in the state. The economy is in a tight position. And the entities that have the money, also have the power and unfortunately, “have the say” even in instances concerning public health and safety. Always seek legal advice before contacting a state agency regarding safety complaints.


If you suspect bioterrorism or unauthorized use in a recombinant BL2 lab, contact your attorney first. Then, contact the FBI.

Always have an attorney to help guide you. This is a very serious issue. It involves your health and your livelihood. If your place of employment is not taking your biosafety concerns seriously, you basically have three choices: quit your job, seek an attorney’s help or risk a serious illness with very little probability of obtaining adequate medical care. None are great choices. But you have no option but to play the cards you’re dealt. And then hang on.

If you have any further issues or questions or concerns, you may contact me at

Keep safe.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Direct-to Consumer Genetic Testing Challenged

The California Department of Public Health stops private genetic testing companies involved in direct-to-consumer marketing. See link...." the state insists that genetic testing be conducted using specially licensed laboratories, and - more controversially - that all tests be ordered through a clinician (a proposal that stirred up howls of outrage from the human genetics blogosphere)."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Trial for CEOs

Put oil firm chiefs on trial, says leading climate change scientist

· Testimony to US Congress will also criticise lobbyists
· 'Revolutionary' policies needed to tackle crisis

James Hansen, one of the world's leading climate scientists, will today call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer.

Hansen will use the symbolically charged 20th anniversary of his groundbreaking speech (pdf) to the US Congress - in which he was among the first to sound the alarm over the reality of global warming - to argue that radical steps need to be taken immediately if the "perfect storm" of irreversible climate change is not to become inevitable.

Speaking before Congress again, he will accuse the chief executive officers of companies such as ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy of being fully aware of the disinformation about climate change they are spreading.

In an interview with the Guardian he said: "When you are in that kind of position, as the CEO of one the primary players who have been putting out misinformation even via organisations that affect what gets into school textbooks, then I think that's a crime."

He is also considering personally targeting members of Congress who have a poor track record on climate change in the coming November elections. He will campaign to have several of them unseated. Hansen's speech to Congress on June 23 1988 is seen as a seminal moment in bringing the threat of global warming to the public's attention. At a time when most scientists were still hesitant to speak out, he said the evidence of the greenhouse gas effect was 99% certain, adding "it is time to stop waffling".

He will tell the House select committee on energy independence and global warming this afternoon that he is now 99% certain that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has already risen beyond the safe level.

The current concentration is 385 parts per million and is rising by 2ppm a year. Hansen, who heads Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, says 2009 will be a crucial year, with a new US president and talks on how to follow the Kyoto agreement.

He wants to see a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants, coupled with the creation of a huge grid of low-loss electric power lines buried under ground and spread across America, in order to give wind and solar power a chance of competing. "The new US president would have to take the initiative analogous to Kennedy's decision to go to the moon."

His sharpest words
are reserved for the special interests he blames for public confusion about the nature of the global warming threat. "The problem is not political will, it's the alligator shoes - the lobbyists. It's the fact that money talks in Washington, and that democracy is not working the way it's intended to work."

A group seeking to increase pressure on international leaders is launching a campaign today called It is taking out full-page adverts in papers such as the New York Times and the Swedish Falukuriren calling for the target level of CO2 to be lowered to 350ppm. The advert has been backed by 150 signatories, including Hansen.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Global Biosafety at Risk

Embargoed-World fails to monitor biotech trade-UN study
Tue May 27, 2008 1:00pm EDT
By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

OSLO, May 27 (Reuters) - The world is failing in efforts to control an international biotechnology trade ranging from genetically modified crops to the building blocks of biological weapons, a U.N. University study said on Tuesday.

The study said a lack of controls was "a potentially contributing factor to the spread of bioterrorism" -- the deliberate release of naturally-occurring or human-modified bacteria, viruses, toxins or other biological agents.

It said just $135 million, a fraction of the amount needed, had been spent on helping developing countries to build up skills to monitor a rising use of biotechnologies in the past 15 years.

Lack of training and knowledge is "so pervasive and broad that there is no effective international system of biosafety at the moment," according to the 238-page report by the Japan-based U.N. University Institute of Advanced Studies.

"The use and prevalence of biotechnology seems certain to increase, not least in agriculture," it said.

More than 100 developing nations lack the ability to implement the U.N.'s 2003 Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, meant to help regulate trade in genetically modified organisms (GMOs) including crops such as maize, tomatoes, rice or soybeans.


Mosquitoes & The Diseases They Spread

World wide, there are 2500 different species of mosquitoes. In the USA alone there are 150 species. Mosquitoes must have stagnant water to breed. Only the adult female mosquitoes bite men and other animals, like cattle, horses, goats, deer, rabbits, snakes, lizards, frogs and all types of birds. The males feed on plant juices. These buzzing little mosquitoes are disease transmitters, and can cause your cat and dogs to contact heartworms.

WHO (World Health Organizations) estimates there are 50 million cases of dengue and malaria around the world every year and of this, at least 125000 people die yearly. These diseases become more prevalent as the ambient temperature rises. Dengue and malaria are no longer seasonal. Their presence is now continuous. So be ware of disease traps like discarded tyres, or tyres used to weigh down roofs in the shanty areas. Industrial equipment which are left in the yard, without proper covers or shades can collect rain water for mosquitoes to breed.

At cooler climates, mosquitoes mate during autumn. But in the tropics, they mate whenever they become adults. After mating, the males die but the females hide in leaf piles, loose barks, or cracks in buildings. So clean up your bushy areas, but do not destroy the bushes as these bushes attract the small birds which feed on the mosquitoes.

Another smart thing to do is to allow bats and birds to live around your area, possibly putting up bird and bat houses for them to roost. Bats are living bug zappers. One bat can eat up to 1000 mosquitoes per hour.

Another thing you can do is to request your local health authorities to carry out fogging at your area regularly if it is justified and if you are living in a country which cares. Disease-carrying mosquitoes have spread to cooler climates and are now a global problem.

Other areas to clean up are the possible sources of standing water such as discarded bottles, containers, flower pots etc. If you have a large pond, put fresh water fishes like mosquito-fish or bleeding heart tetra. These fishes feed on mosquito larvae. Most other tropical fresh water fishes also feed on larvae. You can experiment on this yourself.

Mosquitoes remain within a mile or two of their source. But some are found to have traveled 75 miles from their breeding source. Most males live for about a week but he females live up to a month.

Among the Aedes mosquitoes, the species spreading chikunguna are the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Andes albopictus mosquitoes attack during the day. The diseases are transmitted when the andes bites an infested person or animal and then bites someone else. They prefer to bite humans and can fly many miles from their breeding sources.

Chikungunya affected over one million people worldwide since 2005. It is now endemic in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. It is also found in Mediteranean Europe, Germany and Italy.

In Singapore alone this year (2008) thirteen people contacted this disease locally. Chikungunya and dengue have the same symptoms, and their presence can only be identified by a laboratory test of the patient’s blood. This disease lasts between three and ten days and at he moment, there is no cure. The U.S. Military has developed a vaccine against the virus of chikunguna but it is still on trial basis.

Anopheles mosquitoes are the ones which transmit malaria to man. Larvae of anopheles mosquitoes can live in fresh or salt-water, e.g. mangrove swamps.

Culex mosquitoes attack at dusk and after dark. They prefer domestic and wild birds. They can transmit sleeping sickness to man and horses. The females which emerge in late summer search sheltered areas to hibernate until spring.

Culiseta mosquitoes attack in the evening or in shade during the day. They mainly feed on birds and mammals, and occasionally humans.

Tackling mosquito-borne diseases require the whole world to work together. Do mosquitoes need permit to enter your country?


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

New Rule Mandates Publically Funded Research to be Accessible to Public within 1 Year

In the past much scientific research (funded by your hard-earned tax payer dollars through NIH) has been published solely in journals that have required a paid subscription. This has limited the public, patients and advocacy groups to access important scientific information. Now a new rule mandates that publications from all public-funded research must be submitted to Pubmed Central within 1 year. Pubmed Central is a free digital archive of biomedical and life sciences publications operated by the NIH.

This new mandate is a great step forward in allowing the public free access to publication and research studies that they have funded. The limitation, however, is that we unfortunately have to wait at least one year to access this information. This limitation is still too long, especially for patients who suffer from orphan diseases or for advocacy groups to adequately inform the public.

The time of free public access to scientific publications should be shortened to 3 months instead of one year. This would allow publishing companies to still make profits on their journals, but also allow the public to access important scientific information in a reasonable time frame. Since we pay for the research, free access to the results of such scientific studies within three months of publication should not be at all unreasonable.

For more information see:

Monday, June 2, 2008

NIH's Role in Undiagnosed Illness

It is due time that the NIH took some interest toward the increasing presence of undiagnosed mystery illnesses, since it may in fact have had a direct role in causing it. The NIH has supported and allowed dangerous BL2 (Biosafety Level 2) research to be performed essentially unregulated here in the United States, a type of research, which in fact, can cause and contribute to the increase prevalence of mystery illness.

Uunregulated BL2 recombinant DNA research is currently being performed in every major academic, biomedical and pharmaceutical research facility in the United States. This dangerous biological research involves creating genetically engineered human infectious agents that can cause a plethora of new uncharacterized genetic and metabolic diseases in humans and animals. If used unsafely and subsequently released, it can leave exposed persons suffering a debilitating illness without adequate medical care or any hope of a diagnosis.

Hazardous BL2 research is now so common that, more than likely, it is being performed “directly in your own back yard” at your local research facility. Biomedical research should be of grave concern to the public since it remains essentially unregulated with no effective oversight to ensure worker or public health and safety.

The NIH has been far from responsible in taking strides to protect the American people against the dangers of recombinant DNA research. They have not supported effective oversight to enforce safety standards using BL2 infectious agents in academic laboratories. More threatening is that there exist no safety laws which govern private research centers working with BL2 infectious agents. Biotech workers have no rights to a safety forum to address safety issues.

Moreover, the NIH does not support the release of identity and exposure records in order for biotech workers to obtain proper medical care from an exposure. Accidents in the labs and biological releases are being hidden from the public. In fact, the culture of the scientific community has become so unprincipled that it supports “trade secret” rights over the rights and safety of the American people and health of biotech workers.

There is no doubt that a population of “undiagnosed” diseases, could have been caused by unsafe practices in BL2 research laboratories. The NIH by their own volition and lack of responsibility for worker’s rights and public health and safety has played a major role in supporting this dangerous unregulated research...all in the name to promote science.

It is about time the NIH pulled their "head out of the sand" and began looking into these mystery- undiagnosed illness which has left millions of people suffering. But that is only part of the solution. The NIH should not only investigate undiagnosed mystery illness, but also attempt to prevent the disease itself. It time to place adequate controls and oversight on BL2 research institutes around the country.