Los Angeles City Councilman Joel Wachs called for an
investigation Wednesday into regulations on the handling of
hazardous and contagious materials following the disappearance
of blood contaminated with the virus that causes AIDS.
An Igloo cooler containing six vials of blood taken from
patients previously determined to be carriers of the HIV virus
were left outside the front door of ICS Home Health Services in
Van Nuys for a courier pickup Friday night. It disappeared
between Saturday night and Monday morning.
Wachs said it is "unbelievable that vials of contaminated blood
were knowingly left outside the building in an ordinary picnic
"Even more shocking is the fact that a Police Department
investigation indicates that it is a common industry practice
to handle contagious materials in such a careless manner."
Regulation of health agencies is the state's responsibility.
But Wachs' chief deputy, Greg Nelson, said the councilman
wanted to do all he could to encourage more stringent laws.
Wachs also is chairman of the council's Arts, Health and
Humanities Committee, which handles city health matters.
Wachs' motion will be reviewed by the full council Friday.
Scott Lewis, spokesman for the state Department of Health
Services, which regulates laboratories and home health
agencies, said the Van Nuys disappearance was the first he had
heard of in California.
Lewis said a search of laws found nothing governing the
handling and transporting of blood products, including those
contaminated with the virus that causes acquired immune
deficiency syndrome. State investigators are preparing a report
about the incident, he said.
"Based on that report, we'll decide whether there's a policy
review needed," he said.
Lewis and other health officials confirmed that it is common
practice for blood, urine and tissue samples to be left outside
medical offices for couriers who take them to other
laboratories. At ICS, a lock used to secure the cooler was
apparently broken before the samples were left outside.
Police believe that someone took the cooler and discarded the
blood. Health officials said the blood would be dangerous only
if it entered a person's body through injection or a cut.
CAPTION: Photo: Cooler with blood disappeared from outside Van