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New Study Examines WWI Chemical Effects On NW D.C.

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A sign and equipment mark one of the sites near American University where WWI-era munitions have been found.
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A sign and equipment mark one of the sites near American University where WWI-era munitions have been found.

A new study aims to examine the health of a wealthy Northwest Washington neighborhood that was built upon a World War 1 chemical testing ground. Spring Valley was discovered to be the site of an Army munitions site back in the early '90s, and health concerns persist to this day.

Scientists will poll Spring Valley residents through on online survey this spring. The study is a follow up to a 2007 report which found that, while residents were generally in very good health, some issues needed a closer look -- particularly the arsenic-related cancers.

"The rates were a little higher in Spring Valley than they were in Chevy Chase, D.C.," says Beth Resnick, outreach coordinator for the Spring Valley study. "It wasn't a huge difference, but enough that we felt like we wanted to go back and look at that a little bit further."

The study is being conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins University. Scientists also plan to monitor the ground water in the community -- it wasn't studied in the 2007 report.

"I have less concern, frankly, about arsenic than I would about something like loucide or mustard gas, something of that nature, which has been found in parts of the community, but has been cleaned up and has been addressed," says Thomas Smith, a resident of 30 years and the neighborhood advisory commissioner.

He says that no one has conclusively linked the chemicals found underneath his community with illness, but he hopes the study will will explore any individual claims.

American University is located in the affected neighborhood. WAMU is licensed to American University.

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