"Lab 257: the Distrurbing Story of the Government's Secret Plum Island Germ Laboratory"
(reviewed by Kam Aures MAR 16, 2004)
"The USDA fancies calling Plum Island 'The Alcatraz of Animal Disease.' This is terribly misleading. Unlike the prisoners of Alcatraz, live germs on Plum Island have made it out alive on two proven occasions, from each of the island's two laboratory buildings. And those are the known outbreaks; many more no doubt escaped detection. Employees have been infected with animal germs, and some have become violently and permanently ill. The USDA prefers to shrug its shoulders and demand impossible proof. Plum Island has proven to be an environmental catastrophe and a workplace safety nightmare, chronicled on multiple occasions by its own sister government agencies, the EPA and OSHA. Given the direct facts and circumstantial evidence, the insidious connections between Plum Island and the initial outbreaks of three infectious diseases - West Nile Virus in 1999, Lyme Disease in 1975, and Dutch duck plague in 1967- are far too coincidental to be dismissed."
Michael Christopher Carroll spent seven years researching and writing this investigative piece and in my opinion all of his hard work is definitely apparent and appreciated. He has put together one of the most horrifying books that I have ever read. While reading LAB 257 I had to keep reminding myself that what is contained in this book is REAL, it is not a work of fiction. In a work of fiction, the lack of safety measures taken on Plum Island would be laughable; in real life this blatant disregard of set procedure is terrifying. To think that tons of violations posing a risk to public health were noted numerous times by varying agencies, but no one ever forced Plum Island to take any action to remedy the situations is something that I cannot comprehend. Why allow a laboratory harboring dangerous viruses to continue to operate in this manner? The proven leaks resulting because of safety violations should have been enough to warrant enforcement of the regulations. The unproven, but highly coincidental "leaks" such as Lyme Disease, West Nile Virus, and Dutch duck plague should have been the icing on the cake. How could all three of these viruses just suddenly appear in such close proximity to Plum Island at the same time that these viruses are being harbored in their labs without there being a connection? It is downright scary to think that an operation that has the potential to spread disease like this is allowed to continue to operate with such a high disregard for safety.
Carroll's book leaves no stone unturned. He has thoroughly researched the history and present day workings of the laboratories and operations on Plum Island. He drew his information from a variety of sources, including speaking with employees past and present and utilizing the Freedom of Information Act to extract information from the appropriate government agencies. The way that he skillfully assembles all of this research into a work that reads as easy as fiction is remarkable. Carroll is a very talented investigative writer and LAB 257 is by far the most interesting and engaging piece of non-fiction that I have ever read.
There is a quote on the back cover of the book from Mario M. Cuomo, former governor of New York which pretty much says it all: "If we're lucky, someone in the media will read this carefully researched, chilling expose of a potential catastrophe and force the government to do something about it. If not, Mike Carroll's brilliant work will have been wasted and we may be the victims, once again, of government inadvertence."
- Amazon readers rating: from 18 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from Lab 257 at MostlyFiction.com
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
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- Author Notes: The story behind the story
- USDA Research at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center
- CDC on Lyme Disease
- CDC on West Nile Virus
- Curled Up review of Lab 257
- Lab's move begins to life mystery around NY island (2010)
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About the Author:
Michael C. Carroll spent seven years researching and writing Lab 257 . A native of Long Island and an avid outdoorsman, Carroll is now general counsel of a New York-based finance company.
He lives on Long Island and in New York City.