Md Legislators Pass Private Biosafety Labs’ Bill

It would require DHMH to keep a list of these labs across the state.

 


Annapolis, Md (KM). The Maryland House of Delegates this week passed a bill covering private biosafety level 3 laboratories in the state. The legislation would require the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to keep a list of those labs, and share that information with local public health and emergency management officials.

Frederick County Delegate Karen Lewis Young is one of the sponsors. “Actually, that was generated through the Frederick community by the Containment Laboratory Community Advisory Committee. This is the third year that bill has been heard on the House side; fourth year on the Senate side,” she says.
Young says this bill does not cover public laboratories which are regulated by the federal government. “However, there’s less oversight and regulation by the private labs. Of course, the private labs tend to be clustered near the public labs such as USAMRIID{US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, located at Ft. Detrick}, the Cancer Institute, NIH and Aberdeen Proving Grounds,” she says.

These private labs also don’t handle federally regulated biological select agents and toxins. BSL-3 labs work with Risk Group 3 microorganisms such as MERS, meningitides, herpes and rabies virus, according to Delegate Young’s office.

Many of these facilities are located in Frederick, Montgomery and Harford Counties.

“This bill does not have any oversight. But it just says ‘we want our emergency management to know: are they next to schools? Are they next to waterways?’¬† So that if there is an emergency, they know how to respond appropriately,” says Delegate Young.

But the public will not have access to this information. “They will have to trust that emergency management knows who they are, where they are and will respond accordingly,” she says.

As Delegate Young noted earlier, this is the third year the House of Delegates has considered this bill, and the fourth time it’s been before the Maryland Senate. But she believes chances¬† of passage this year are “better than ever.” “We know where the opposition was in the Senate, and we’ve been really focused in clarifying the purpose of the bill, the need for the bill. So we’re cautiously optimistic,” she says.

Frederick County Delegate Carol Krimm is also one of the sponsors of this bill.

 

By Kevin McManus