RealNews

Bethesda Residents Fear New NIH Lab Would Be Terror Target

A plan by the National Institutes of Health to build a $186 million bio-defense laboratory near a busy Bethesda intersection is provoking concern among some neighbors who worry that terrorists could attack the facility and release deadly microorganisms in the area. Scientists want to use the labs near the corner of Rockville Pike and West Cedar Lane to study pathogens that cause anthrax, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), West Nile encephalitis, drug-resistant tuberculosis and other potentially lethal diseases that can be contracted through inhalation. Local officials are powerless to block the project because NIH is an arm of the federal government and not subject to local zoning controls. Under an agreement with NIH, however, local planners are entitled to review the proposal and recommend changes before construction begins in November. Last night, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission held an informal public forum, and some neighbors said they fear the project poses a needless risk because terrorists might be tempted to assault the building with a truck bomb, small arms fire or rocket-propelled grenades. They also wondered about the effect of infected animals getting loose. Full Story

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