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Los Angeles Times
Wachs Pushes Inquiry After Tainted Blood's Disappearance
Amy Pyle; Times Staff Writer
September 14, 1989
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 cooler."

"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."

State Responsibility

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 Nuys facility.