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Laboratory Safety at CDC

CDC is committed 24/7 to saving lives and protecting people. CDC’s guiding principles for laboratory work are to ensure the safety of all staff and the community and be as transparent as possible about our work as we conduct high-quality scientific research to protect people in this country and around the world. CDC has created this laboratory safety site as the portal to keep the public informed of our laboratory safety efforts.

CDC Laboratories – A Key Line of Defense

Podcast: CDC Laboratories – A Key Line of Defense

Lab Podcast More than fifteen hundred scientists fill the lab benches at CDC, logging more than four million hours each year. CDC’s laboratories play a critical role in the agency’s ability to find, stop, and prevent disease outbreaks. This podcast provides a brief overview of what goes on inside CDC’s labs, and why this work makes a difference in American’s health.


CDC’s response to the 2014 lab safety issues:
  • Halted all CDC lab work until a thorough safety review was conducted
  • Appointed a Director of Lab Science and Safety to enact changes
  • Conducted full investigations of safety-related incidents at the agency
  • Actively engaged an external group of lab experts to review our work
  • Completed extensive inventory of samples/materials in our labs
  • Expanded biosafety training at CDC

Lab Safety-Related Reports and Findings

CDC Lab Safety in the News

External Laboratory Safety Workgroup

The ELSW—comprised of external experts in the fields of biosafety, laboratory science, and research—reviewed CDC documentation (e.g., incident reporting, safety policies), visited CDC laboratories, conducted a laboratory safety culture survey, and met with internal staff and leadership.  In culmination of these activities, the ACD proposed recommendations to enhance best practices in laboratory safety and quality within CDC.  CDC concurs with these recommendations and has made progress towards implementing them. 

On April 23, 2015, the CDC reported to ACD on progress toward addressing its recommendations and on other laboratory safety improvements being implemented at the agency – see presentation below.  CDC's aim is to improve the culture of laboratory safety across the agency and minimize the risks associated with laboratory work.

ACD Recommendations Concerning Laboratory Safety at CDC, January 2015. ​

CDC Laboratory Safety Progress Update to the Advisory Committee to the Director

Lab Status Updates

Following laboratory safety incidents at CDC involving select agents, CDC conducted comprehensive internal reviews of each incident.  An inspection of each involved laboratory was also conducted by USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Agricultural Select Agent Services.  During each review, an assessment of the event, contributing factors, and risk mitigation practices was completed.  Each review resulted in a report of findings and recommendations.  CDC concurs with these recommendations and has made progress towards implementing them.  CDC's aim is to improve the culture of laboratory safety across the agency and mitigate the likelihood of future events.

Below are links to summaries of the laboratory safety improvement recommendations and implementation progress as of March 1, 2015 and as of July 1, 2015:


CDC, Report on the Potential Exposure to Anthrax, July 11, 2014

USDA-APHIS, Entity Inspection Report Anthrax, July 10, 2014


CDC, Report on the Inadvertent Cross-Contamination and Shipment of a Laboratory Specimen with Influenza Virus H5N1, August 8, 2014

USDA-APHIS, Entity Inspection Report (H5N1), July 29, 2014


CDC, Report on the Potential Exposure to Ebola Virus, February 4, 2015