Administration Launches Bioterrorism Monitoring Network
Monitoring equipment capable of detecting smallpox, anthrax and other bioterrorism agents is being piggybacked onto an existing system of environmental monitors, according to the White House.
The federal government has begun retrofitting thousands of monitoring stations operated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer said.
“It’s part of our precautions to protect the country,” Fleischer said, noting that the project was not prompted by any information about a specific “impending” terrorist threat to the U.S.
Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, the EPA and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have been working to refine and adapt some of the EPA’s 3,000 air quality monitoring stations with advanced data analysis software that will help detect a release of a bioterror agent within 24 hours.
“The administration, through the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control, is moving forward with a program of monitoring,” Fleischer said. “EPA will deploy these systems to major population centers throughout the country. CDC will monitor the equipment on a regular basis.”
Funding for the program will come out of the new Department of Homeland Security, he added.
The system is based on new air filtering equipment that will gather samples of airborne pollutants, including biological agents, on a “tissue like” paper. Samples of the paper will be forwarded each day to CDC laboratories for analysis, with results available with a day, and in some cases within 12 hours.
The CDC will test for bioterror agents using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) techniques to detect the unique genetic material associated with each type of pathogen, such as the virus that causes smallpox.
The system will be sensitive enough to detect very small amounts of bioterror agents, government officials said.
The project is aimed at giving health officials additional time to deliver medicine, equipment and doctors to the site of a bioterror attack. A professional race car driver and a construction equipment company have agreed to help promote wildlife refuges.
. NASCAR driver Ward Burton and his primary sponsor, Catepillar Inc., will work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to promote wildlife conservation and education, and to highlight the importance of the National Wildlife Refuge System, which will celebrate its 100th birthday this month.
“The National Wildlife Refuge System would not be what it is today,” said USFWS Director Steve Williams, “without dedicated partners concerned about wildlife conservation who were willing to put forth a great deal of hard work.”
Burton, a conservationist, founded the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation in 1996, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the natural environment for future generation. The foundation now owns or manages 2,100 acres.
The organization focuses on both habitat enhancement and youth education projects, such as its youth education affiliate, Return to Nature, Inc., which has reached more than 120,000 boys and girls with its conservation message.
Burton has agreed to participate in three public service announcements promoting the National Wildlife Refuge System, to display a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge logo on his racing uniform, and serve as a refuge spokesperson during media appearances. In addition, the USFWS will continue to work with the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation on education projects.
“Preserving our natural resources,” said Burton, “has become a passion that was instilled in me by my father and my grandfather. I believe that it is the inherent responsibility of all sportsmen and conservationists to preserve the wildlife, habitats, traditions and values we hold so dear.”
Much of the work on refuges involves habitat restoration, from stabilizing stream banks to constructing water delivery systems that sustain wetlands — work that requires the use of heavy equipment, the kind of machines made by Caterpillar.
“At Caterpillar, we’re committed to social responsibility,” says company vice president Steve Gosselin. “We’re proud of our involvement in conservation and particularly our relationship with the National Wildlife Refuge System. It has a great legacy that can be enjoyed by current and future generations.”
Provided by theEnvironmental News Service.