Are biotech lab workers exposed to hazardous conditions?

There are some 232,000 staffers at work in U.S. biotech labs and some critics of the biomedical research industry say that they are often needlessly exposed to potentially lethal hazards, left unprotected by federal regulations which often fall far short of what's needed.

"We have inadequate standards for workers exposed to infectious materials," David Michaels, OSHA's new director, tells the New York Times.

Andrew Pollack and Duff Wilson maintain that three key trends have made labs a more dangerous place in recent years. The heightened focus on bioterror has put more investigators in touch with deadly materials, new work in synthetic biology may create new hazards and an industry trend toward developing more powerful and complex biologics could expose workers to threats as well.

Where's the data to back that trend up? Stats are hard to find. One study found 18 deaths from infections in research labs. But there are plenty of individual cases to relate. And in the absence of any real proof, the Times settled for anecdotal evidence to make its case.

- here's the article from the New York Times