FEMA is lucky ricin exposure uneventful

Hundreds of Ohio emergency responders were placed at great risk by an error made by Federal Emergency Management Agency officials, it has been revealed.

While training at a FEMA facility in Alabama, scores of Ohioans were among about 9,600 people exposed to high-toxicity ricin during exercises on how to handle biological warfare agents.

Among the Buckeye State residents involved were some personnel from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, according to one press report.

Fortunately, FEMA has said it has received no reports of anyone becoming ill from the exposure.

FEMA officials say they ordered a low-risk form of ricin from a training company, but somehow received the more dangerous variety. The company insists what it shipped to FEMA was labeled clearly as high-toxicity ricin.

Obviously, someone, perhaps at FEMA, was dangerously negligent. Federal officials have said they are pursuing an investigation. In the meantime, training exercises using chemical and biological agents have been suspended.

This is not the first time the government has been guilty of a serious lapse involving a biological agent. It was learned in 2014 that some Centers for Disease Prevention and Control employees had been exposed to live anthrax specimens. They had thought the anthrax samples were dead. Last year, the Pentagon discovered an Army lab had been shipping live anthrax labeled as killed.

Clearly, a top-to-bottom investigation of the government’s use of biological warfare agents is needed — before a major, deadly disaster occurs.

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