Biosafety issues refer to the procedures, policies, and principles to be adopted to safeguard the environment and the human population. It refers to the containment principles, strategies, and practices that are adopted to prevent exposure to pathogens and toxins. Its main objective is to keep a check on harmful biological agents, toxins, chemicals, and radiation. With the advent of genetic engineering, biosafety measures have gained importance to ensure public and environmental safety.
The people should be made aware of the rules, regulations, and monitoring bodies. Researchers should be the first ones to have the complete knowledge of the biosafety issues and measures so that safety is ensured at the root level. A multilateral agreement “The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety” has been adopted by 167 countries, including many countries of the United Nations. The protocol was enforced on 11th September 2003. It had the following objectives:
It aimed at ensuring the safe movement of the living modified organisms across the boundaries.
Frame and share the principles and methodologies for risk assessment through Biosafety Clearing House.
Also read: Biotechnology and Its principles
Importance Of Biosafety issues
The areas where genetic engineering practices are being carried out require prior approval from the regulatory authorities of the country.
It is mandatory to follow the guidelines to minimize biosafety.
The awareness about biosafety has been increased among the researchers, producers of Genetically Modified Organisms, policymakers, administrators and environmentalists.
Efforts have been made by the OMICS Publishing Group USA, on publishing Biosafety journals and organizing international conferences to make everyone aware of the biosafety issues and the measures to rectify them.
Though modern research is a boon to human population yet can be dangerous if not used wisely.
Biosecurity and bioterrorism are emerging issues nowadays that need to be checked upon in the interest of human and environmental safety. Biosafety is therefore important to ensure the safe utilization of technology.
Certain biosafety levels have been proposed for the laboratories depending upon the pathogenicity of the microbes being worked upon. These protect the environment and the surroundings from the hazards of such microbes.
Biosafety levels is a set of biocontainment precautions designed to protect laboratory personnel as well as the surrounding environment and the community. They are ranked based on the organisms that are being researched on in a laboratory.
Following are the biosafety levels described in detail:
Biosafety Level 1
This is the lowest biosafety level and is applied to the agents which pose the least threat to the laboratory workers and the environment. These are not isolated from the general building. The non-pathogenic strain of E.coli is worked at a Biosafety level 1.
The research is carried out on the benches without any special contaminant equipment. The biosafety level 1 facility are as follows:
safe handling of sharps
avoiding splashes or aerosols
prohibition on drinking, smoking and food in the laboratories
signs of biohazards
protective equipment such as gloves, goggles, lab coats, gowns
All the infectious materials should be decontaminated before being disposed of.
Biosafety Level 2
This includes agents that cause human diseases. For eg., encephalitis virus, HIV, Staphylococcus aureus. Personnel working in these labs requires greater attention to prevent any injuries such as cuts, ingestions, etc.
The following practices should be carried out in a Biosafety Level 2 laboratory:
Use of protective equipment such as goggles, glasses, face shields, etc.
The procedures that can cause infections are carried out in biological safety cabinets.
The waste material should be decontaminated before disposal.
An eyewash and a sink should be readily available.
Biohazard signs should be provided.
Biosafety Level 3
This includes working on such pathogenic microbes that can cause serious disease through inhalation. For eg., West Nile virus, yellow fever virus, bacteria causing tuberculosis, etc.
The common requirements in a BSL 3 laboratory include:
Protective equipment including respirators is required.
All the work should be performed under proper biosafety cabinets.
The door should have access away from the general building.
The researchers are under medical surveillance and are immunized against certain microbes.
Biosafety Level 4
This includes work with highly dangerous and exotic microbes. Infections through these microbes cannot be treated or immunized and are usually fatal. For eg., Ebola and Marburg virus.
The common requirements in a biosafety level 4 laboratory are as follows:
The researchers should change their clothes and shower while exiting.
All the materials should be decontaminated.
All the experiments should be carried out under class III safety cabinets.
The laboratory is isolated present in a separate building and the entry to this zone is restricted.
Also read: GMO Ethical Issues
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