Poison from the Tap



By Kattie Shumaker-Ellis

This is part two on the tragic oil spill in Elk River, West  Virginia in January which left many thousands without water. See the first one here: https://www.thelibertybeacon.com/?p=16879

MCHM is one of 64,000 chemicals that were grandfathered in when the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)—the federal law regulating chemical safety—was passed in 1976. According to Richard Denison, a senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), there are no human health studies available for MCHM, just a couple of Material Data Safety Sheets (MSDS) from the chemical’s producer, one of which references a study done on the toxic effects of the chemical on rats.

Most of all, it wasn’t clear how dangerous the chemical, 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM), was to human health—mostly because no one knew anything about its health effects, including the company that was storing it, government regulators and even academics who study chemical safety.


But even that study isn’t publicly available—it’s considered proprietary by the Eastman Chemical Company, the maker of MCHM. Otherwise, this is what is publicly known about the human health effects of the chemical: Without human health data, regulators had to make a very rough estimate on what might be considered a “safe” level of MCHM in water, eventually coming up with 1 part per million. Using the one study in rats as a jumping off point, the research found that 50 percent of rats would die when fed at least 825 milligrams of MCHM per kilogram of body weight, equivalent to 825 ppm.  Officials began making estimates, as Denison explained in a blog post on Jan. 13:

1. Because humans may be much more sensitive to the effects of a chemical exposure than rats, a 10-fold “interspecies extrapolation” uncertainty factor was applied. That dropped the value to 82.5 ppm.

2. Because humans differ in their sensitivity to a chemical exposure (e.g., infants or the elderly or people with an illness may suffer effects at a dose that would not affect healthy adults), another 10-fold “interspecies extrapolation” uncertainty factor was applied. That dropped the value to 8.25 ppm.

3. Finally, acknowledging that the study in question looked only at lethality, whereas this chemical might well have other health effects short of outright killing you, a third uncertainty factor was applied. Magically, this factor was set at 8.25-fold, in order to produce the nice round number of 1 ppm as the “safe” level.

The water is still not safe to drink. In all the articles I have read and the research I have done it is still not safe to drink – a month later.

WASHINGTON — Sen. Jay Rockefeller doesn’t believe the tap water for 300,000 in West Virginia is safe to use a month after a massive chemical spill put his state at risk.. And with ongoing uncertainty over the water supply in KanawhaValley, the lawmaker says he won’t trust investigators’ assurances, given the state’s history of “lack of regulatory control.” Quoted from http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/02/west-virginia-sen-rockefeller-wont-ok-charleston-water-a-month-after-spill/

What is a safe amount? MCHM is safe at 0.057 but not safe for pregnant woman or people with an illness. Toxicity of 4-methylcyclohexanol with animal tests from TOXNET at National Library of Medicine shows lethality as a gas. That conveys somewhat less chemical than the Navy test. If anything, the Navy is slightly optimistic about surviving MCHM. The Examiner has this up:

The U.S. Navy laboratory at Norfolk Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Va. says that the only acceptable level of the chemical in any oral form is less than 0.057 ppm, less than 1/16th the amount that Governor (Earl Ray) Tomblin had said was an acceptable level. http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/a?dbs+hsdb%3A%40term+%40DOCNO+2910


Read more: West Virginia Chemical Spill: Danger to People Unknown | TIME.com http://science.time.com/2014/01/14/how-dangerous-is-chemical-spilled-in-west-virginia/#ixzz2tMxa5CJH

Read more: CDC Advises Pregnant Women to Avoid Water in West Virginia Spill Area | TIME.com http://science.time.com/2014/01/17/if-west-virginias-water-isnt-safe-for-pregnant-women-is-it-safe-for-anyone/#ixzz2tMxAwwQM


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