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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal agency charged with preventing the spread of infectious diseases has come under attack today for "serious" airflow problems in an Atlanta building that houses anthrax, SARS and monkeypox.
Documents and emails obtained by USA Today suggest that a poorly engineered airflow system in the CDC's Building 18 could expose unprotected staff and visitors to dangerous airborne pathogens.
"As the door closed a very noticeable puff of air could be felt coming through the slit in the window out into the 'clean' corridor," CDC safety inspector Eddie Jackson wrote in a Feb. 16 email to a top safety official after feeling air flow out of a potentially contaminated lab and into a communal hallway.
"Don't know whether this was a fluke or the norm, and the reason I'm commenting is one of the visitors seemed concerned and has been talking about it since we've come back."
The documents suggest a breach in biosafety regulations, imposed nationwide by the CDC itself, that dictate labs housing the most dangerous inhalable infectious agents must be maintained under "negative pressure."
Washington (CNN) -- It's a highly secured, sophisticated research lab studying deadly diseases such as bird flu, monkeypox, tuberculosis and rabies.
It's in a facility called Building 18, which cost taxpayers $214 million.
And now, the Biosafety Level 3 lab at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta is also the subject of a congressional investigation after a potentially dangerous airflow leak at that lab, CNN has learned.
The leak occurred on February 16, when air flowed the wrong way out of a germ lab into a clean-air corridor, rather than through the powerful HEPA filter that cleans the air, congressional sources and CDC officials said.
Visitors touring the facility were in the clean corridor when they observed a puff of air being pushed out from the lab through a slot in a door window. CNN recommends: Deadly bird flu could become airborne