Editorial: Review all state labs

Following the horrendous crisis about drug evidence testing at the State Lab, the state must do a top-to-bottom review of all of the other sensitive lab work done there.

The epic failure at the drug lab, which is putting thousands of drug convictions in question, is properly drawing immense government and media attention. But that focus is obscuring the fact that there are many other labs in the building also handling crucial and dangerous substances.

If someone finds a bag of suspicious powder that might be anthrax or other biological warfare agent, it is sent for testing to the State Lab, which sits next to houses and the popular Arnold Arboretum park. Wild animals that might be infected with rabies or a potential epidemic disease are examined there, the sort of tests that lives depend on. Blood and urine of racehorses is tested there for doping in an industry that is susceptible to cheating and corruption.

Yet none of those labs is being reviewed. In fact, virtually no one in the drug lab scandal has noted that these labs even exist, let alone questioned whether they might have similar quality-control problems.

Lab supervision is a key issue. It is not just a drug lab chemist and chief who have been forced out. The head of the entire State Lab and the Department of Public Health commissioner have both resigned, quite properly, over the failure in supervision and DPH’s attempts to downplay the extent of the problem.

So how can we trust that all of those other labs are properly supervised? We can’t until there is a thorough, independent review with results that are made public.

Residents and local elected officials should demand that review for the good of the state and the health of the neighborhood.

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