It is unlikely that the decision by the National Institutes of Health that the National Emerging Infectious Disease Laboratory, known as the Boston University biolab, “poses very little risk to the public” will change the minds of Boston neighbors who oppose it. But the federal government’s conclusive assessment, performed by scientists and technicians who work with the same dangerous pathogens to be studied in parts of the lab, is a reassuring step. It sets essential standards to ensure the safety of the community in the years to come.
There is no denying that the lab’s request to work with level-3 and level-4 agents — such as the West Nile virus, SARS, and ebola — has some risk. The review admitted that reaching a level of “no risk” is an impossible standard, but concluded that the potential that a deadly pathogen would in any way endanger the community is “very low, to only remotely possible.”