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Opponents of Bioterrorism Lab Sue NIH

May 19, 2006

BOSTON (AP) _ Opponents of a proposed biological research laboratory filed a federal lawsuit Thursday, seeking to block the lab from being built in a densely populated city neighborhood.

The laboratory would be part of a national group of facilities conducting research into some of the world’s most dangerous germs and viruses.

The suit claims the National Institutes of Health failed to perform the required environmental review of the project. NIH also dismissed the potential environmental and public health risks and refused to consider sites in less heavily populated areas, the suit says.

The agency gave final approval to the project in February. Boston University wants to build the lab in the city’s South End. The lab will study infectious diseases such as ebola and West Nile virus.

Kathy Stover, a spokeswoman for the NIH, declined comment on the lawsuit, citing a policy against commenting on pending litigation.

University officials said the lab would be safe and would provide needed research into contagious illnesses and the risk they might pose in the hands of bioterrorists.

Eloise Lawrence, a staff attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation, said the NIH has not yet shown the lab would be safe. The foundation was among the groups that filed the lawsuit on behalf of residents and community activists.

``The federal government, specifically the NIH, has an obligation to examine the environmental impacts and risk of the bio lab on the public health of the surrounding community and they did not do that,″ she said.

The lawsuit seeks to stop the federal government from releasing $128 million in funding for the project.

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