letters | A level 4 biolab in Boston?

Taking biolab to level 4 gambles with our safety

The city is considering a ban on level 4 research at Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories on Albany Street.

Kalman Zabarsky/Boston University Photography/File 2012

The city is considering a ban on level 4 research at Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories on Albany Street.

As a resident of the South End, I am distressed by the Globe’s editorial position in support of allowing research on the most deadly pathogens at the Boston University biolab on Albany Street (“Level 4 disease research can be safe, belongs in America’s medical capital,” April 13).

Were this an issue of siting a casino, our viewpoints would be heard. Yet on such a critical matter of public health and safety, the community’s voice has been largely ignored ever since the first brick was laid.


Having toured the facility, I too was impressed with the design and engineering of the infrastructure. But as a criminologist, I am deeply concerned about the designs of those who would see the biolab as a prime target for attack, a terrorism magnet of sorts. Despite the building’s fortification, I also worry about human fallibility and corruptibility.

Should the biolab be permitted to move ahead with its plans to upgrade to level 4 research, there will indeed be gambling, of a sort, in Boston. The scientific community, believing that the odds against a catastrophe are in its favor, appears willing to risk the safety of those who live or work here.

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Just as Cambridge officials did several years ago and most of the mayoral candidates, including the eventual victor, Marty Walsh, did last fall, the Boston City Council should recognize that level 4 research, though worthy and important, should not be allowed in a densely populated area where evacuation routes are limited, at best.

James Alan Fox


The writer is a professor of criminology, law, and public policy at Northeastern University.

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