The concept of biosafety has developed with the emergence of the science of microbiology and biosafety has evolved to deal with new areas of study including recombinant DNA, molecular biology, synthetic biology, and biotechnology. As the capability to isolate, manipulate, and propagate pathogenic microorganisms matured, so too did the development of containment principles, facility design, and practices and procedures to prevent occupational exposure in the workplace and the potential release of the organisms or biotoxins to the environment.
Biosafety programs represent an important safety and health component at Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration sites. New focus areas for biological research, bioterrorism threats, and concerns about emerging diseases have resulted in new regulations (on the Federal, state, and local levels) and new operational and engineering approaches to biosafety.
Similarly, the development of nanotechnology has resulted in the need to identify and implement appropriate safety mechanisms to protect the health of workers and the public. Nanotechnology involves the study of and engineering of small bit of matter (materials with widths of less than 100 nanometers). At the nanoscale, the physical, chemical, and biological properties of materials differ in fundamental and valuable ways from the properties of larger particles. Biosafety programs now include a nanotechnology program when there is a potential health threat to humans from the inhalation of, ingestion of, or skin contact with nano-sized materials.
SCAPA’s Biosafety Working Group
To assist the DOE and NNSA community in effectively addressing emergency planning, preparedness, and response issues relative to a potential biological event, SCAPA has established a Biosafety Working Group. For information on the working group’s activities and membership, see the Biosafety Working Group web page. One of the recent products of the Biosafety Working Group is a White Paper that assesses the current state of knowledge regarding laboratory-scale releases of biological agents and toxins to the environment: Transport and Dispersion of Biological Agents/Toxins (2009).
Biosafety and Nanotechnology Links
The Biosafety Information web page features useful links to key biosafety information and nanotechnology information, including technical information, products, and organizations advancing biosafety and nanotechnology safety.