Crude MCHM more toxic than self-reported by Eastman Chemical: Local response to new toxicity data



Charleston, WV — People Concerned About Chemical Safety (PCACS) is calling on Governor Tomblin and the Center for Disease Control to swiftly undertake additional testing on crude MCHM in light of data released today by Dr. Andrew Whelton at the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) annual conference.

At a joint presentation, Dr. Andrew Whelton, University of South Alabama professor, Dr. Rahul Gupta, Kanawha-Charleston Health Department Health a Officer and Executive Director, Major General James Hoyer of WV National Guard, and Dr. David Latif, Professor and Chair, Dept. of Pharmaceutical and Administrative Sciences, University of Charleston School of Pharmacy, will be presenting lessons learned from the Elk River chemical spill to public health officials from across the country.  New toxicity data released this morning by Dr. Whelton reveal that crude MCHM is more toxic than previously reported by Eastman Chemical Manufacturing.  This data was compiled by Dr. Whelton with a group of University of South Alabama graduate students during an originally unfunded expedition to collect water samples from impacted homes in West Virginia immediately following the January 9th Freedom Industries Elk River chemical spill.  Following the incident, the National Science Foundation recognized the scientific need for these studies and stepped in to enable the work to continue.  Dr. Whelton and crew, including Caroline Novy, the graduate student of the University of South Alabama who completed the testing, are now collaborating with the United States Geological Survey to examine specifically how the organisms they tested are affected by crude MCHM exposure.

While the governor-funded West Virginia Testing Assessment Project reviewed existing data provided by Eastman Chemical to the Centers for Disease Control — data upon which worker exposure limits and public health directives were determined — it was Dr. Whelton and his students who independently sought to verify the basis for the Eastman data.  Their results leave many concerned for their health as well as the lax regulations that govern chemicals such as crude MCHM.

This information has national implications for public health in how we determine safe levels of exposure for the general public, for worker safety and how we determine worker exposure limits and handling procedures, how we regulate chemicals not intended for human consumption, and how much faith emergency responders should place in industry data.

“We can no longer rely on industry self-reporting to protect the public health,” says Maya Nye, Executive Director of People Concerned About Chemical Safety.  “We need checks and balances, and we need additional tests to understand the long-term health effects of worker and community exposure to this chemical and all other chemicals grandfathered in under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).”

People Concerned About Chemical Safety has already garnered over 1,000 signatures on a petition to fund further studies of the TSCA regulated chemical that was grandfathered in without requiring adequate tests to determine human health hazards.

“Our goal is to have one signature for every person impacted by this chemical disaster, and for our government to take our call seriously.  If this chemical disaster had happened in New York, Chicago, Boston or Los Angeles rather than West Virginia, I have no doubts that these tests would already be underway.  West Virginians have a right-to-know how exposure to this chemical could affect us over the long haul.”

Review additional information on the recent tests at Dr. Whelton’s website at  To sign PCACS petition, click HERE. ABOUT PEOPLE CONCERNED ABOUT CHEMICAL SAFETY (PCACS)

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Support tests for West Virginia chemical disaster


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On January 9, 2014, crude MCHM, a chemical used to process coal leaked into the water supply for 300,000 residents across nine West Virginia counties. The drinking water ban for pregnant women lasted nearly one month but mixed messages have left most residents not trusting the safety of their drinking water. Estimates of more than 100,000 people experienced health effects, yet no data exists to understand what the long term health effects will be. It has been reported that the chemical has been found in drinking water in coalfield communities for years. The chemical, grandfathered in under the Toxic Substances Control Act, was legally allowed to be placed on the market without sufficient toxicological data. Current regulations in place allow the chemical to remain on the market today without this data.

Workers and communities — including vulnerable populations like pregnant women and children — have a right-to-know how exposure to this chemical can impact them in order to make informed decisions about their health and the health of their families.  If this incident had happened in Washington, DC and not West Virginia, many feel the tests would already be underway.

WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT to help make this happen.  Please, do not underestimate the power of your voice.  Join People Concerned About Chemical Safety in urging our government to provide toxicological tests needed to understand the largest chemical contamination of a drinking water supply in U.S. history.

Link to the petition:

Posted in Bayer CropScience, Bhopal disaster, chemical disaster, chemical safety, Chemical Safety Board, chemical safety regulation, Chemical Valley, emergency response, environmental health, EPA, MCHM, Poverty and Chemical Disasters, right-to-know, toxic exposure, Toxic Substance Control Act, TSCA, West explosion, worker fatality, WV Water Crisis | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Women & Water: Lessons from the Elk River Chemical Spill Listening Sessions



Maya Nye, President
People Concerned About Chemical Safety

Margaret Chapman-Pomponio, Executive Director

Women & Water: Lessons from 
the Elk River Chemical Spill Listening Sessions

Immediately following the Center for Disease Control’s advisory against pregnant women consuming water in the chemical spill zone, WV FREE sprang into action.
“The clear reproductive health effects of the disaster compelled us to reach out to women in the affected area,” said Margaret Chapman Pomponio, WV FREE Executive Director. “Increasing public engagement in public issues and creating space for raising civic and social concerns is a main objective of our movement.”

Between February and April 2014, WV FREE enlisted the help of People Concerned About Chemical Safety to conduct six listening sessions to hear directly from women and families about how the Elk River chemical spill has impacted their lives.  Sixty adults participated in the listening sessions which were held in various churches and public housing complexes in Charleston and at the Putnam County Courthouse.  Their questions, concerns and suggested action steps are documented in a report entitled, “Women & Water: Lessons from the Elk River Chemical Spill Listening Sessions”.

Six key findings from the report indicate that 1) lives were interrupted, 2) physical health impacts were experienced, 3) fear and anxiety is pervasive, 4) there is a decreased level of trust with government officials, 5) particular concerns for vulnerable populations (including pregnant women and children), and that 6) civic engagement is necessary.

Recommendations from the listening sessions are grouped into seven categories including: 1) improve and increase monitoring activities and health studies, 2) prioritize addressing exposures in women and children, 3) continue bottled water distribution in schools and public housing, 4) distribute water to seniors and others with limited mobility, 5) ensure safe water supply and backup water sources, 6) strengthen and enforce chemical safety laws, and 7) educate, organize and mobilize communities to increase civic engagement.
“This report underscores the need for additional toxicological testing on crude MCHM.  Scientists have called for it.  Doctors have called for it,” said Maya Nye, President of People Concerned About Chemical Safety.  “Women and workers have a right-to-know how exposure can impact them in order to make informed health decisions for themselves and their families.”

The entire report is available online at


REPORT CORRECTION:  Information described on page 3 of the report cites that ”As of April, the Kanawha‐Charleston Health Department estimated that roughly one in three people (92,568‐ 108,819) experienced health impacts from the spill.”  Please note that data on the 108,819 people impacted was compiled by Dr. Andrew Whelton and is not part of the ongoing WVTAP project funded by the West Virginia Bureau of Health.

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Seeking Frequent Flyer miles donors!

ICJB – North America will be coordinating panel discussions at the Association for India’s Development (AID) annual conference (Boulder CO), and the Left Forum (NYC). Joining the panels will be Maya Nye of People Concerned about Chemical Safety in West Virginia to discuss how Bhopal impacted US chemical safety, why Bhopal is important for the US environmental justice movement, and local “Bhopals”.

We need help getting Maya to these events! If you have extra United Airlines miles you can “donate” to help her get to the panels, please send us a message or e-mail us at! Flights are running around 25,000 miles each, some higher. We will help coordinate all the logistics and pay for any fees. Many thanks!

You can also donate directly to People Concerned About Chemical Safety to help support our ongoing efforts!

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Who’s in Danger? A Demographic Analysis of Chemical Disaster Vulnerability Zones

Race, Poverty, and Chemical Disasters: Over three thousand communities live under the threat of Toxic Chemical Disasters like what happened in West, Texas and Elk River, West Virginia. The Black and Latino populations in these communities are much greater than for the whole U.S. Find out more with the new Environmental Justice and Health Alliance Report:


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PCACS Featured as Guest on EPA EJ in Action Blog

Chemical Spill in West Virginia Offers Opportunity to Learn About and Improve Chemical Safety in America

By Maya Nye

On the early morning of January 9, a citizen complaining of a strong “black licorice” smell alerted officials to a chemical leak at the Freedom Industries site that seeped into West Virginia’s Elk River a mile and a half upstream of the state’s largest water intake.  It wasn’t until hours later that a ban was placed on water use for over 300,000 people across nine West Virginia counties.  Schools shut down. Hospitals cancelled non-essential surgeries.  Restaurants were forced to close leaving many people out of work.  The local economy nearly ground to a halt.

Untitled-1The chemical that leaked from the Freedom Industries site, crude 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, or MCHM, is used in the processing of coal-fired energy production.  It is one of 62,000 chemicals that were grandfathered in under the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA), many of which can pose serious consequences for human health.

This is not a new issue in West Virginia: chemical contamination has been a concern in this area for a long time.  This 25-mile stretch of West Virginia’s Untitled-2Kanawha River has been nicknamed “chemical valley” for its chemical manufacturing industry.  In fact, many incidents in this valley over the years have served as the focal point for reform to national chemical safety and security policy, including a 1985 aldicarb oxime leak that led to national Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Laws and the implementation of the United States Chemical Safety Board.  In the wake of this latest spill, the communities around the Elk River in West Virginia also have an opportunity to spur action on chemical safety…

To read the final edited version of the blog post, click here:

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Water Crisis Not Over After West Virginia Chemical Spill

by Meghna Chakrabarti, WBUR “Here And Now”

Freedom Industries, which spilled thousands of gallons of a coal-washing chemical into the Elk River, is pictured on January 10, 2014, in Charleston, West Virginia. (Tom Hindman/Getty Images)

It’s been called one of the most serious episodes of drinking water contamination in U.S. history. Four months after thousands of gallons of the coal-washing chemical MCHM spilled from an unregulated above-ground storage tank into the Elk River, many people in and around Charleston, West Virginia, are still using bottled water.

Water bans after the Jan. 9 spill lasted as long as nine days in some Charleston communities. But residents continue to report that the water smells like licorice and it has sent people to the emergency room. A recent article in The New Yorker that profiled the power of the coal industry in West Virginia called the spill an accident with no clear ending, with the most basic question — “Is the water safe?” — unanswered.

Dr. Rahul Gupta, who runs the Kanawha-Charleston and Putnam County health departments in Charleston, West Virginia, speaks with Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti about the ongoing water crisis.

To read more, go here:

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The coal industry, the politicians, and the big spill.

BY , APRIL 7, 2014

  • When a chemical leaked at a facility in Charleston, West Virginia, lawmakers at the State Capitol were close enough to smell it.

When a chemical leaked at a facility in Charleston, West Virginia, lawmakers at the State Capitol were close enough to smell it. Photo Illustration by Spruce.

On the morning of Thursday, January 9, 2014, the people of Charleston, West Virginia, awoke to a strange tang in the air off the Elk River. It smelled like licorice. The occasional odor is part of life in Charleston, the state capital, which lies in an industrial area that takes flinty pride in the nickname Chemical Valley. In the nineteenth century, natural brine springs made the region one of America’s largest producers of salt. The saltworks gave rise to an industry that manufactured gunpowder, antifreeze, Agent Orange, and other “chemical magic,” as The Saturday Evening Post put it, in 1943. The image endured. Today, the Chemical Valley Roller Girls compete in Roller Derby events with a logo of a woman in fishnet stockings and a gas mask. After decades of slow decline, the local industry has revived in recent years, owing to the boom in cheap natural gas, which has made America one of the world’s most inexpensive places to make chemicals.

Read the full article here:

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Over the next two weeks, the Women and Water Campaign will host two “Women and Water Listening Sessions.”  These sessions, happening on the heels of the WV Testing Assessment Project (WVTAP) Health Expert Panel and the recent debacle surrounding the dumping of MCHM in the Hurricane landfill, are an opportunity for women to come together to discuss concerns around the recent water crisis (otherwise known as the largest drinking water chemical contamination in U.S. history) and learn information about the possible effects on women’s health from chemical exposure.

The Thursday, April 3rd Listening Session, hosted by BMEEK Community Outreach Program Inc., will be held at First Baptist Church at 432 Shrewsbury Street in Charleston in the downstairs conference room.

The Thursday, April 10th Listening Session will be held at the Putnam County Courthouse, Committee Chambers at 3389 Winfield Road in Winfield.

Both sessions are free and open to all women and families.  They will be kicked off by a reception at 6:30pm and will run from 7:00 to 9:00pm.

The Women and Water Campaign, a WVFREE project, was developed in response to the Elk River chemical spill when women’s health concerns began to emerge.  Information captured from these sessions will be compiled in a report to assist decision and policy makers with recommendations supporting women’s environmental health moving forward.

“Women & Water Listening Sessions” are co-sponsored by WVFREE’s Women and Water Campaign, People Concerned About Chemical Safety, West Virginia Citizens Actively Protecting the Environment, West Virginia Citizen Action Group, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, and the West Virginia Healthy Kids & Families Coalition.

For more information on the events or to schedule a Women and Water Listening Session before April 18th in a community affected by the Elk River chemical spill, contact Maya Nye at 304-389-6859 or

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Cover Story of Chemical & Engineering News : Deconstructing Inherently Safer Technology

This article was sent via CBG Network:

The Cover Story of the Chemical & Engineering News is dealing with the safety of chemical facilities. The article also addresses the deadly explosion at the Bayer Institute (W.Va.) plant which led to a Congressional investigation.

More info: and

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