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Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government's Secret Plum Island Germ Laboratory Hardcover – February 17, 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 289 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1 edition (February 17, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060011416
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060011413
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #100,047 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

That the United States government engaged in dangerous biological research during World War II will come as no surprise to Americans jaded by revelations of secret medical experiments and radiation exposures. But that the accident-plagued facility where it happened--and continues to happen--is just off the coast of Long Island may alarm many readers of Michael Christopher Carroll's Lab 257. Carroll, an attorney by trade, gamely takes on complex microbiology and shady government record-keeping in telling the story of Plum Island, home of the Animal Disease Center--no place for a casual picnic. The lab, initially set up by the Army to research ways of destroying Soviet farm animals (and to keep them from destroying ours), has often dealt with bacteria and viruses that can be passed from animals to humans. Carroll draws compelling causal links between Plum Island and the introduction of Lyme disease, West Nile virus, and duck enteritis, all non-native germs that wreaked sudden havoc in North America, and all germs that Plum Island scientists were allegedly working with. With hurricanes and terrorists on his mind, Carroll asks readers to imagine a scenario in which the Plum Island lab might release pathogens into the most densely populated area in the country. He ends the book with two chilling questions. First, does the United States need a research facility that investigates animal pathogens with potential for human transmission? Second, considering that Plum Island never had a particularly good safety record, is it the right place for such a facility? Lab 257, while occasionally veering into unsupported speculation, introduces key questions to the debate on biological security in the 21st century. --Therese Littleton

From Publishers Weekly

This strong first effort by New York lawyer Carroll centers on a U.S. government biological research center devoted to studying such exotic and virulent diseases as African swine fever, Rift Valley fever, foot-and-mouth disease and West Nile virus. Plum Island is quietly nestled a mere two miles off of Long Island, 85 miles from New York City, and Carroll argues convincingly that the island is dangerously insecure. Based on sedulous research into declassified government files and interviews with Plum Island scientists and employees, he offers clear and convincing evidence that Plum Island is rife with the potential for a catastrophic disaster eith?r from an accident or, equally frightening, terrorist action. Carroll raises two chilling questions: Is there a connection between Lyme disease and Plum Island research? (Old Lyme, Conn., the location of the disease's initial 1975 outbreak, is close to Plum Island.) And what about West Nile virus, which also suddenly appeared in close proximity to Plum Island? Carroll offers clear descriptions of the dangers inherent in studying deadly viruses that could infect untold numbers of humans, disrupt the food supply or cripple an entire industry—dangers heightened by a lack of even minimally adequate security. The author acknowledges that the times demand that the U.S. have a research facility like the one at Plum Island and ends this provocative book with a list of reasonable, well-conceived suggestions on how to make the research lab safe, or at least safer. Readers will hope that someone takes notice. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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A good read with a lot of detail.
RC deWinter
This author really did his research through personal tours of Plum Island and interviews with various people who worked there.
Susan D. Roberts
This is one of the most amazing books I have ever read!
Veny W. Musum

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Newton Ooi on August 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I found this to be one of the most engaging and astounding books I have ever read. The author tells the story of Plum Island, an island of the coast of Long Island on which was located a US government laboratory that ran secret experiments of various viruses, bacteria, and other microbial agents. Superficially owned by the USDA, its stated purpose was to help US agriculture by studying the different diseases that could afflict livestock, and come up with vaccines or cures for them. The real purpose of the lab was to study those diseases to see if and how they could be weaponized for use against the livestock of other countries in a war, specifically the Soviet Union.

The experiments that went on at Plum Island began during the 1940s and continued through the 1990's. During this time, Lyme disease, West Nile Virus, Ebola, and other diseases were imported here from various geographies and countries to be studied. The author speculates that many of these diseases accidentally got out and of the island, and spread to the local wildlife and then to the human population. The causes of these mishaps range from human error, technical failures of various kinds, and the occasional hurricane.

The author does a good job of covering the science that went on at this lab, along with the politics and secrecy involved, such as Congressional oversight, lawsuits from various NGO's, and conflicts with the local media and governments. This is a great book to read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about where your tax money goes to.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By R. Smith on April 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Has it ever occurred to anyone that the first outbreaks of Lyme disease, in 1975, happened a mere 10 miles from the Plum Island germ laboratory? It certainly didn't to me until after reading this book. Since 1948, ticks have been bred and infected with the Lyme virus and other horrific viruses on this US govt. owned island located off the coast of Long Island and Connecticut in Long Island Sound. Old Lyme, CT, namesake of the disease, lies directly in the path of the prevailing wind direction from Plum Island. It just kind of makes you wonder.
This book provides an objective history of the Plum Island Animal Disease Center - from its early days as a biological warfare laboratory following WWII (...), through the years it was controlled by the USDA, up until today, when control of the island lies with the Dept. of Homeland Security. At least two outbreaks of diseases that made it to the mainland from Plum Island have occurred over the years; there is also evidence that other virus outbreaks - such as the West Nile virus - possibly originated at the Plum Island facility.
It is amazing that so few people really know about the activities on the island, especially when you consider that it is just miles from one of the most populated areas in the country - the New York City area. This book is a great read for anyone concerned about the environment, biological warfare, or the mechanics of the federal govt. It is a must-read for anyone living within 100 miles of Plum Island and/or using Long Island Sound recreationally.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful By T. Gabrielli on June 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
If "The Hot Zone" scared the pants off of you, then this book will leave you naked. As an eastern Long Islander, this book really opened my eyes and made me think. With every chapter I read, I was on the phone soon afterwards telling my friends, "And you know what else the government is doing there...." The only reason I did not give this the full five stars was that it seemed to me in the last chapter that Mr. Carroll changed his stance on this issue. After an entire book of relating the nasty things that have happened on Plum Island---and ARE happening--Carroll suggests that perhaps Plum Island is needed. If this is his belief after all the research he did, then why wasn't that reflected in the rest of the book? Even so, I reccommend this book to anyone concerned about the health and safety of their neighborhood, particularly everyone living in the Long Island/Connecticut areas.
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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Michael Carroll's brave and compelling book raises questions that must be answered. The depth of research becomes clear quite quickly, but Carroll's a master of taking a LOT of information and delivering it in a very readable fashion. If The Hot Zone and the Omega Code raised the hairs on your neck, this book will deliver, but much scarier, because you can't just walk away and say "It's only a movie"....
Anyone who dismisses this book as an unlikely scenario is just naive. Bravo to Carroll, whose 7 years of writing shows up on every page.
This is a book that you should read, and then send to your Congressperson and Senator immediately. Though Carroll discusses the threat to the eastern seabord, I'm here to tell you that the same thing that happens to the guard in the first chapter happened to me in the Hollywood Hills in one of LA's most exclusive neighborhoods.....that means it can happen to you. Read this book, and wise up.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Linda Rinaldi on April 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Thank you, thank you, thank you to Mr. Carroll for having the courage to write this enlightening book. As a chronic Lyme disease sufferer for 14 years, it was always my gut feeling that this horrible disease somehow originated at Plum Island, but was never quite able to put all the details together. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that my illness might have originated from a Nazi Germany biological warfare program. This is a very bizarre illness with psychiatric, neurologic, arthritic and cardiac manifestations. Many Lyme sufferers are also coinfected with Bartonella, Babesia, Ehrlichia, Mycoplasma fermentins and various other pathogens. Now it is easy to see why the government has not helped the Lyme community in developing a reliable test to diagnose this. Now it is easy to see why we have received little help from the government for the development of a reliable test. No good test equals no diagnosis = no problem. The government would have a massive lawsuit on their hands for all the people that have suffered this inhuman disease and all the people in the future who it will affect. Lyme disease is reaching epidemic proportions. The undiagnosed segment of Lyme sufferers is probably at about 75%. This book is probably the most important read for Americans today. Thank you to Mr. Carroll for this wonderful piece of investigative reporting. His research is invaluable.
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