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The Daily Tar Heel

Bill Tries to Curb Bioterrorism

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz., introduced a bill last week in the U.S. Senate that forbids any individual from possessing biological agents outside a government certified lab.

Labs that work with biological agents will have to register with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and follow certain guidelines to be certified.

But Russ Lea, UNC-system vice president for research, said he thinks Feinstein's proposal is aimed at restricting access to the agents by nonresident aliens.

Lea said that if the proposal becomes law, there would have to be a registration process, restricting access to facilities that might work with these agents.

He emphasized that this process would affect both faculty and students.

"These types of things can be really troubling at academic level since we have so many foreign students," Lea said.

He added that the restriction likely would have the largest impact on graduate students.

Lea said the Association of American Universities and other higher education groups are responding critically to these bills.

UNC-Chapel Hill Vice Chancellor for Research Tony Waldrop also said he hopes the bill will not restrict foreign student access to lab facilities.

"We always had equal opportunities (on campus)," he said.

Peter Reinhardt, director of the UNC-CH Health and Safety Office, said only two of the 40 biological agents identified by the federal government are on the UNC-CH campus.

He added that no more than two of the research laboratories on campus work with these agents.

"We have no anthrax or smallpox in the (UNC-CH) campus," Reinhardt said.

"We are very confident that many elements of good lab security are in place"

Reinhardt said a federal law already is in effect to control selective agents. He added that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducts periodic site visits and regulates agents used for research.

He added that everyone working at UNC-CH laboratories must undergo proper training.

"I think (the University) is as secure as any other in the nation.

"We all will be reassessing what we do," Reinhardt said. "I think we are doing a very good job here so far and need to make improvements in the future."

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