Poor enforcement of safety rules allowed an April 2002 anthrax leak to occur at the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, according to a U.S. Army report obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
The May 2002 report explains; The contamination could have come from shipping containers for samples related to the 2001 anthrax attack mailings. Three different anthrax strains – two infectious and one a harmless vaccine – were detected in an office and changing room outside biosafety laboratories, according to the report.
Multiple episodes of contamination may have occurred. Institute personnel regularly failed to monitor or decontaminate “hot labs” where work was done on anthrax, and personnel providing safety supervision sometimes lacked adequate training, according to the report.
One researcher described a chaotic environment following the 2001 anthrax mailings, as researchers struggled to keep up with the inflow of samples. The researcher compared one secure lab to a “‘rat’s nest.’ The countertops were dirty, the floor was dirty and the area was disorganized,” the scientist said. “At that time, I made a decision not to process any more samples.”
The contamination took place just as new security measures were being formed, said Chuck Dasey, an institute spokesman. Some Fort Detrick researchers doubted the facility’s commitment to safety, according to the report.