Source: National Academy of Sciences

A new National Research Council report requested by Congress finds "several major shortcomings" in a U.S. Department of Homeland Security assessment of risks associated with operating the proposed National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan, Kan. The laboratory would study dangerous foreign animal diseases — including the highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), which affects cattle, pigs, deer, and other cloven-hoofed animals — and diseases deadly to humans that can be transmitted between animals and people.

Based on the DHS risk assessment reviewed by the Research Council committee, there is nearly a 70 percent chance over the 50-year lifetime of the facility that a release of FMD could result in an infection outside the laboratory, impacting the economy by estimates of $9 billion to $50 billion. The Research Council report says the risks and costs of a pathogen being accidently released from the facility could be significantly higher than indicated by the assessment. Although the committee that wrote the report recognizes the need for a biocontainment facility to be built in the United States like the one proposed in Kansas, it was not asked to provide judgment about whether the location is appropriate for the proposed facility. 

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