Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

Living Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, William M. Irvine, Ricardo Amils, Henderson James Cleaves, Daniele Pinti, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Michel Viso

Biological Safety Level

  • Catharine A. Conley
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27833-4_179-2




The Biological Safety Level (BSL) is used in the USA to describe a set of specifications for the precautions required to isolate potentially hazardous biological agents in a containment facility at a specified stringency, ranging from BSL-1, which indicates the least strict containment, to BSL-4, which is the containment required for the most hazardous human pathogens. A similar scale is used in the EU using the abbreviation P1-P4, where P indicates either Pathogen or Protection. For instance, a BSL-4 laboratory (P4 in Europe) is under reduced pressure relative to atmospheric pressure, the exhausted air is filtered, and all wastes including water and any hardware leaving the high-containment area are sterilized chemically or by heating. Trained personnel work inside the area in protective suits, overpressurized by air pumped in from outside through a dedicated system. The exterior of the suit is chemically disinfected when workers leave the area.


Bioorganic Chemistry Biological Agent Human Pathogen Safety Level Similar Scale 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NASA HeadquartersWashingtonUSA