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Understanding Containment Levels In Laboratories

Working with biological materials, including micro and genetically modified organisms takes place in containment laboratory facilities. Level containment is classified into four different hazardous groups for working and for safety concerns. Containment Level 1 has the lowest hazard rating and a Level 4 would be the highest rating. The requirements for these labs differ dependent on the physical and work parameters. The containment measures of these facilities are defined by the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens, the ACDP; the Advisory Committee on Genetic Modification, the ACGM; and the Department of Food and Rural Affairs, the DEFRA.

A risk assessment determines which level of containment can be undertaken in a lab. The ACDP containment levels are for working with human pathogens and can include levels 1, 2, and 3. DEFRA levels are used when working with animal and plant pathogens and ACGM levels are used for working with micro and genetically modified organisms.

Containment level 1 facilities work with agents that don't cause diseases in humans and have a minimal hazard to the environment and laboratory personnel. The airflow in these facilities must be regulated to ensure the safety of the environment and the comfort of the personnel.

A Containment level 2 facility works with agents that provide a moderate hazard to the environment and workers. Some of these agents would include viruses and bacteria that can cause mild disease to humans or are hard to contract through a lab setting like hepatitis, Lyme disease and measles. This level is different than level 1 because the personnel in these labs have been specifically trained and are directed by advanced trained scientists in the handling of pathogenic agents. Access to the lab is limited while work is being conducted and safety cabinets or containment equipment is necessary.

Containment level 3 facilities are applicable to diagnostic, research, clinical, teaching and production which work with agents that can cause serious and potentially lethal diseases if inhaled. All the procedures related to the infectious materials is conducted in biological safety cabinets, designed hoods,

and other containment devices. These laboratories have special design and engineering features to ensure the safety of workers and the environment.

These safety measures for containment level 3 facilities include:

• Sealed penetration and double-door access zones. • Filtered exhausted air to the outside of the facility. • Restricted access to the laboratory. • Directional airflow and balanced ventilation in the laboratory.

The precision and pressurized airflow in these high risk facilities, as well as, comfort control is essential and a requirement of these containment level 3 facilities.

A level 4 containment facility works with the most dangerous and exotic agents that pose the highest risk of laboratory infection and severe or fatal disease in humans. The agents involved in these labs have no known cure or treatment. While some of the safety measures of these facilities are similar to those of containment level 3 facilities, personnel in a level 4 must use pressurized suits with segregated air supply, showers, and a vacuum room to name a few. The air service going to and from this facility also must undergo a decontamination process.

Understanding containment levels in laboratories  

Working with biological materials, including micro and genetically modified organisms takes place in containment laboratory facilities.

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