Chemical-terrorism preparedness--Public Health Laboratories found "Unprepared and Overwhelmed".
A report released by Trust for America's Health Trust for America's Health (TFAH) is a Washington, D.C.-based health policy organization. The organization's website calls the group "a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to saving lives by protecting the health of every community and working to make disease prevention (TFAH TFAH Trust for America's Health ) finds that, despite warnings by homeland security officials that a chemical terrorist attack in the United States is a real possibility, state public health laboratories--a crucial component of the defense and response system--are dangerously unprepared to meet this challenge.
The report "Public Health Laboratories: Unprepared and Overwhelmed" examines the capabilities of the nation's state and local public health laboratories.
"Public health labs are responsible for identifying the chemical weapon used in an assault, which then drives the critical treatment, containment, and cleanup decisions," said Shelley A. Hearne, Dr. P.H., executive director of TFAH. "Nearly two years after being overwhelmed during the anthrax anthrax (ăn`thrăks), acute infectious disease of animals that can be secondarily transmitted to humans. It is caused by a bacterium (Bacillus anthracis attacks, labs still haven't received the real investment needed to fix many of their deficiencies."
The report has two parts:
1. a survey of state public health laboratory directors about their ability to respond to a hypothetical chemical weapon attack and
2. an evaluation of state laboratories' preparedness to respond to emergencies involving three industrial chemicals that could potentially be used as chemical terror agents.
The report identified the following gaps in preparedness among public health laboratories:
* lack of clear direction and formal coordination among emergency responders;
* lack of planning, protocols, and additional support needed in the event of emergencies;
* lack of equipment and training required to safely handle and store samples of suspected biological or chemical agents;
* lack of security and safeguards against exposure for laboratory personnel and emergency responders;
* limited environmental testing capacity for chemical agents; and
* minimal ability to test the public for exposure to chemicals, including common industrial chemicals such as phosgene phosgene (fŏs`jēn), colorless poison gas, first used during World War I by the Germans (1915). When dispersed in air, the gas has the odor of new-mowed hay. , a choking agent regularly used in pharmaceuticals, metal welding and dye manufacturing, and arsine arsine /ar·sine/ (ahr´sen) any member of a group of volatile arsenical bases; the typical is AsH3, a carcinogenic and very poisonous gas; some of its compounds have been used in warfare. , a blood agent used in the manufacturing of computer chips and fiber optics fiber optics, transmission of digitized messages or information by light pulses along hair-thin glass fibers. Each fiber is surrounded by a cladding having a high index of refractance so that the light is internally reflected and travels the length of the fiber .
"If we have to respond to a chemical terrorism event, it will be a train wreck train wreck Medtalk A popular term for a multiproblem Pt in critical condition ," said Scott Becker, executive director of the Association of Public Health Laboratories The Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) works to safeguard the public's health by strengthening government laboratories with a public health mandate in the United States and across the world. . "Only eight state public health laboratories have a chemical terrorism response plan in place. We don't have a national plan, or testing methods, or a lead agency for many of the laboratory activities that will be needed when a crisis occurs."
TFAH recommends a serious modernization effort aimed at making public health laboratories state-of-the-art for the 21st century. Communications, staffing, equipment, and facilities would need to be upgraded, and a real commitment would have to be made to increase and stabilize support at both the state and federal levels.
The report was supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, charitable organization devoted exclusively to health care issues. It was established in 1936 by Robert Wood Johnson (1893–1968), board chairman of the Johnson & Johnson medical products company. . It is available on TFAH's Web site, at www.healthyamericans.org.