What Is The Biolab?

Picture of the smallpox virus, one of the many deadly pathogens to be studied at the BU biolabIn the Spring of 2003, local residents began fighting to stop Boston University from building a BioSafety Level 4 (BSL4) laboratory in the Roxbury/South End area. This lab would research the most dangerous pathogens know to humanity like tularemia, anthrax, and the Ebola viruses, many of which can be transmitted through the air. According to the Massachusetts Nurses Association, “Many of the agents could be used in biowarfare and bioterrorism. An agent escaping containment would pose a severe threat to public health and the environment and could cause a public health crisis.”1

Boston University is receiving funding for the BSL4 lab (biolab) from the National Institute of Health from a line item funded by the Federal Department of Defense. Knowing that the Department of Defense has been funding chemical warfare development for years many fear that this technology will be used to develop disastrous biological weapons.

More than 25,000 people live within one mile of the proposed site; if the lab is built it would be the only United States BSL4 located in a densely populated urban neighborhood.

  1. Massachusetts Nurse, Volume 76, No. 3

The BU Biolab Faces Major Community Opposition

Community members marching with a banner opposing the BU biolabThe BSL4 (biolab) is opposed by over 150 doctors, scientists, and academics in the area; many organizations; and most importantly by the Roxbury/South End community surrounding the proposed location. The Stop the Biolab Coalition is leading the campaign to stop the building of the BSL4. The coalition is made up of residents of Roxbury and the South End, residents from all neighborhoods of Boston, and includes city councilors, unions, and other community leaders. Opposition has also come strongly from the two direct abutters to the project: the Villa Victoria Housing and Cathedral Housing Development.

The community surrounding the proposed site is already overburdened with environmental health hazards and is densely populated. The Roxbury/South End community is organized and has been working on urban planning and community development issues for years. This Boston University project backed by Mayor Menino completely bypassed this process.2 See the complete list of people and organizations against the biolab.

  1. David Ozonoff, MD, PHD, Boston University School of Public Health. “Top Ten Reasons to Oppose the Biolab” talk to BU staff and students

Deadly Pathogens Will Be Transported Through Your Neighborhood

A crashed Fedex truck; accidents in transport could release deadly pathogensOn Monday October 30th 2006 the Boston City Council will hold a hearing to discuss how the deadly pathogens will be transported to the lab. Which neighborhoods will the pathogens travel through? Will they come in from the airport? Will the pathogens be able to travel over bridges or through tunnels? The transportation of the deadly pathogens will pose significant safety risks to all of the communities they travel through and there are many unanswered questions.

According to the Council for Responsible Genetics, the “Biosafety Level 4 labs could pose significant safety and security risks during transportation of pathogens. For example, a package containing the West Nile Virus exploded on March 20th in a Federal Express building in Columbus, Ohio.”3

  1. Peter Shorett and Sujatha Byrav, Council for Responsible Genetics

Accidents Will Happen… Our Safety Cannot Depend On BU Or Menino!

Men in biohazard suitsAccidents WILL happen, human error is inevitable, and there have already been documented cases of leaks from labs including recent confirmation that the anthrax used in the post-September 11th attacks came from a federal bio-defense laboratory in Fort Detrick, Maryland.

But when there is a Level 4 Biolab in the middle of Boston, accidents MUST NOT happen. In May of 2004, three Boston University researchers became ill after being exposed to Tularemia in one of BU’s existing lower level labs. Both Boston University and Mayor Thomas Menino knew about the incident early on, but chose to hide it from the public. Finally, in November of 2004, six months after the tularemia exposure, BU reported the cases to city, state, and federal health authorities.4

Scientists agree that there is a huge risk to the community. BU and Mayor Menino have withheld information from us at the cost of our own safety. We don’t trust Boston University to be honest with the residents of Boston or run this lab safely.

Read the Boston Globe article: BU Flunks the Trust Test

  1. The Boston Globe, Bacterium Infected 3 at BU Biolab

Evacuation Is Impossible

Picture of an evacuation signWhat happens if there is an accident? What if one of the world’s most deadly and incurable diseases is released? Hurricane Katrina has focused attention on how unprepared our cities and towns are when dealing with crises. The city of Boston, led by Mayor Menino has NO plan to deal with a biolab disaster. In fact, the state court ruled in August of this year that Boston University failed to do an accurate environmental review and failed to plan for a worst case scenario for a biolab disaster. Read more about the court case.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association, which represents 23,000 nurses, is against the building of the BU Biolab in the Roxbury/South End, a densely populated area. There is no current safety plan and Menino’s “Preparedness Plan” which focuses on evacuation is useless. If there was an exposure from the lab, or an accident during transport, an evacuation would not help the surrounding area. Read the Massachusetts Nurses Association’s statement on the biolab.


The movement to stop the biolab is growing. There are many ways to take action to stop the BU Bioterror lab and we need your help today!

  1. Email or Call MAYOR MENINO today and ask him to STOP THE BU BIOTERROR LAB!
  2. Join the campaign! There is opposition to the lab in every community in Boston. Email roxsafetynet@yahoo.com to find out about what is going on in your neighborhood.

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