Hurry up the legal regulation of bio Facilities
Prof. Shingo Shibata
The present day is the gAge of Emerging Viruses."
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least more than 30 new pathogens have appeared in the past 20 years. They include AIDS virus (HIV), E.coli O-157, Ebola Virus, etc. They have caused tremendous damage, and there will be a great danger of them doing such damage also in the future.
As a matter of course, it is a pressing need to research these unknown pathogens and take measures against them. In this respect, the article in the statement and commentary page of this newspaper (Asahi Shimbun, one of the three major nationwide newspapers in Japan) dated April 20, 1999, which was entitled gSet up eBSL4f laboratories also in this country (Japan),h is an appropriate suggestion, and I agree to this opinion.
However, why does it remain impossible to
operate these laboratories in
A 'BSL4' laboratory, which is also called a
'P 4 laboratory,' deals with the most dangerous pathogens or DNAs. In
Why can the facility of NIID not be used? The reason is as follows: its predecessor named Japanese National Institute of Health (JNIH) secretly set up
this P4 facility and 'P 3 laboratories' in a residential area in 1981, and so
the residents living around these labs and
It cannot necessarily be said that a P 3 laboratory would be safer. P 3 and P 4 laboratories, where workers use dangerous pathogens, DNAs and carcinogens, forcibly release the air containing them for the safety of the workers. However, because even highly efficient filters cannot trap all of them, WHO regulates operating conditions for laboratories, saying that such exhaust air must not be discharged toward occupied buildings.
The performance of 'physical containment' in P 3 and P 2 laboratories dealing with such pathogens as Japanese encephalitis, hepatitis, cholera and E. coli O-157 is relatively poor. So, as with P 4 laboratories, their location in residential areas is dangerous to residents living around them and against the principle of the Constitution Standard Law.
In spite of these lessons and the
international standards, in 1986, JNIH released its plan to transfer to a new
site in Shinjuku Ward adjacent to houses, Waseda University, facilities for the
handicapped and the area for evacuation in case of a disaster. But at that time
it was concealed from people that the planned facility included a number of P 3
and P 2 laboratories. This was brought to light in 1987, and as a result, the
Last December, it came to light that the old site of JNHI in Shinagawa Ward had been contaminated with radioisotopes, dioxins, harmful chemicals and heavy metals, and mass media reported that it was necessary to exchange the surface soil of the site. Laboratories dealing with pathogens and GMOs (bio facilities) are also facilities discharging harmful chemicals. Is it right to say that residential areas are "appropriate" for the sites of such facilities?
In spite of this trend in the world,
It is an urgent task to legislate the law providing provisions for the location of bio facilities, their obligation of notification, the inspection of them and the need to obtain residents' acceptance in order to cope with infectious diseases in the age of biotechnology.