Ever Wondered What Are BioSafety Levels And What Do They Really Mean?

Even if you haven’t dealt with biological waste matter, you have probably seen a biohazard label. They are scattered throughout our Science books, video games and even the occasional show trying to be edgy. The latter is always, of course, accompanied with people talking about Bio Hazard Regulations or shouting things like, “It’s a level 4!” in panic. But what do these levels really mean?


For starters, the level numbers are assigned to safety regulations needed in order to not get contaminated and not to the biohazard. These levels are precautionary in each nature. Each level has different suits, procedures and protocols on how to deal with the situation


Bio Safety Level 1


Pic Source: Mr. Evil Cheese Scientist


This level deals with the least amount of threat to humans. Work in this level is characterized by agents which do not harm or infect humans. Lab personnel are recommended to thoroughly wash their hands but use of protective suit is optional. Isolation of lab chambers is also not required. Research with a variety of microorganisms like Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis are allowed at this level.


Bio Safety Level 2


Pic Source: Bill Dickinson


Level 2 follows all the procedures followed in level 1 along with some additional protocols. Personnel must be specifically trained in the pathogen they are handling. Entry to lab is restricted. Biological Safety Cabinets should be used when conducting experiments with agents that have a tendency to splash or spray. Example of research in this level include work with Hepatitis.


Bio Safety Level 3


Pic Source: U.S. Army RDECOM


The third level mostly deals with research in microbes where contamination could lead to potentially fatal infections in humans. Lab personnel are given immunizations where necessary and all personnel are required to wear proper front-end protective clothing. Moreover, the laboratory itself must be isolated and enclosed by two sets of biologically sealable doors to reduce risk of exposure. Pathogens like the SARS virus and encephalitis virus are categorized as requiring level 3 safety protocols.


Bio Safety Level 4


Pic Source: Kevin Su


The highest level in biohazard regulations, it deals with threats can be easily transmitted via air and could fatally harm humans if exposed. Personnel are required to wear pressure suits and use Class III biosafety cabinets when researching these agents and must through a decontamination shower on exit. No sharp objects are allowed in order to reduce risk of damage of suit. Haemorrhagic viruses, the variola virus and small pox are classes in this level.


All these checks help scientist remain safe while they work on research that may change the course of global medicine.