out all possibility of a laboratory-acquired illness. The post maintained a comprehensive medical staff, an outpatient clinic, and a complete isolation/quarantine hospital.

A biological safety research program was operated to assess all operational aspects, including equipment and facilities development, and to investigate each laboratory or production procedure. The program evolved into the scientific discipline now called “biological safety.” It identified procedures to ensure safety in every component of work with pathogenic agents, including work with pathogens and their toxins, genetic manipulations, and production of agents and vaccines. The safety elements are applicable to the biomedical and veterinary disciplines and to evaluations against bioterrorism.

GRUINARD ISLAND, SCOTLAND

In 1942, the War Department of the United Kingdom appropriated from a private owner Gruinard Island, a rocky island about 2 km long and 1 km wide lying just off the northwest coast of Scotland. Before World War II, Gruinard was used for sheep grazing, rough shooting, fishing, collecting bird eggs, and as a picnic spot (Pearson, 1990).

In 1942 and 1943 the British government conducted trials on Gruinard to evaluate the potential use of airborne spores of B. anthracis; downwind of bomblet detonation, air was sampled and sheep were exposed (Manchee et al., 1994). The result was light surface contamination over much of the ground, with a majority of material scattered over the ground in the form of large globules of spore slurry in the immediate vicinity and downwind of the detonation point (Manchee et al., 1994). Soil samples taken in 1943, 1944, and 1946 indicated high levels of contamination. Because B. anthracis is persistent, it was reasonable to assume it would remain in the soil for a long period of time.

The U.K. Ministry of Supply had purchased Gruinard for £500, with the understanding that the owner could repurchase it for the same amount within 6 months of its being declared “fit for habitation by man and beast” (Manchee and Stewart, 1988; Pearson, 1990). In 1945, the owner sought return of the island. But annual soil sampling between 1946 and 1969 showed persistent contamination, although the number of spores was slowly declining. An extensive survey in 1979 showed that most of the island was not contaminated (Manchee et al., 1994), and that spore contamination was confined to area of about 3 acres (Pearson, 1990). The Ministry of Defence commissioned an Independent Advisory Committee in 1985 to facilitate the return of Gruinard to civilian ownership. The committee reviewed scientific data regarding contamination, advised on and verified decontamination procedures, and advised on the prospect of the land’s return to civil ownership and agricultural use (Pearson, 1990). Two areas were identified for remediation: a larger zone around and including the detonation area and the paddock area where exposed sheep were kept (Manchee and Stewart, 1988).



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement