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Army Secretary John McHugh has called for an immediate review of Department of Defense labs that handle toxins, and the Pentagon has extended a moratorium on production and shipment of dangerous materials amid safety concerns.
A Pentagon official confirmed to NBC News that McHugh ordered a 10-day review of the nine labs and other facilities that handle toxins following widespread mishandling of live anthrax spores. In June, officials said kits containing live anthrax had been received by 52 labs across the U.S. and in Australia, South Korea and Canada.
The revelation prompted a moratorium on production and shipment of inactivated anthrax on July 23. On Thursday, McHugh said the freeze had been extended.
"Prior to resuming the activities prohibited above, laboratories must seek and receive my approval," McHugh wrote in an Army memo. "I understand that these measures will affect ongoing research activities, and I expect to grant waivers in appropriate circumstances."
Under standard procedures, anthrax samples are irradiated to kill live spores before they are shipped to other labs for research. But the process to kill the spores failed in at least one case, and four batches that contained live anthrax were sent out.
Defense officials said the Pentagon was among the locations that received a shipment of live anthrax.
No one was injured or infected from the mistake.