RealNews

Readiness for Chemical Attack Criticized

Despite repeated warnings by the Bush administration that chemical agents are among the most readily available terrorist weapons, the nation’s public health laboratories are “dangerously unprepared” for a chemical attack, according to a state-by-state analysis released yesterday. The vast majority of labs do not have the equipment or expertise to identify a wide range of potential chemical weapons, including ricin, cyanide, sarin, VX and most pesticides, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Trust for America’s Health reported. “This is a huge area of vulnerability,” said Shelley Hearne, the group’s executive director. “There has not been an aggressive response to fill this gap.” Nearly 18 months ago, the Department of Health and Human Services identified chemical testing as one of seven priorities for state health departments. But little progress has been made, officials concede, in large measure because bioterrorism projects overshadowed all over preparedness work. Full Story

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