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CDC issues precautionary tap water advisory issued for pregnant women in light of chemical leak

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CHARLESTON, WV -

Due to the water crisis, a water advisory was issued for pregnant women Jan. 15, days after the "do not use" water order had begun to lift throughout zones in the original nine-county area.

According to a news release issued by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health advises, after consultation with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wednesday evening, that the CDC recommends, out of an abundance of caution, pregnant women drink bottled water until there are no longer detectable levels of MCHM in the water distribution system.

However, according to the news release, the CDC re-affirmed previous advice that it does not anticipate any adverse health effects from levels of the chemical less than 1 part per million.

U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., together asked the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to explain why pregnant women should not drink the tap water in the Kanawha Valley.

Their concerns come the day after the CDC recommended pregnant women consider drinking bottled water until further notice.

"It is particularly concerning that as many as 150,000 people who had been under a 'Do Not Use' water order were told that their water supply was safe for use before the CDC's recommendation that pregnant women should consider an alternate drinking water source," the lawmakers said together in a written statement. "We are deeply disappointed in the CDC for recommending a screening level before receiving all relevant studies and information, which has resulted in confusion, fear and mistrust among Kanawha Valley residents."

The letter by lawmakers asks CDC Director Thomas Frieden to answer the following questions by Tuesday, Jan. 21:

  • "Describe in detail the methodology used by the CDC to calculate on Jan. 10 or Jan. 11 that 1 part per million is the appropriate protective standard for the ingestion of crude MCHM for the entire population. This response should include reference to the original studies consulted by the CDC in calculating the 1 part per million standard.
  • ·"What information led the CDC to suggest on Jan. 15 that pregnant women ‘may wish to consider an alternative drinking water source'? This response should include reference to the new studies that scientists were reviewing at the time of your Jan. 15 letter.
  • "When did the CDC first become concerned about the possible effects of crude MCHM levels of less than 1 part per million on pregnant women?
  • ·"You use the phrase ‘at this time' in your Jan. 15 letter when explaining that the CDC continues to believe that 1 part per million is the proper protective standard. Given the new advisory for pregnant women and the new studies the CDC is reviewing, how confident are you that 1 part per million will remain the protective standard for all West Virginians – including young children, those with medical conditions, and the elderly?"

For further clarification about water usage by pregnant women, below is the text of a Frequently Asked Questions document issued by the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety:

  • Question: Will this chemical harm my fetus (unborn baby)?

Answer: There are no known studies showing harm to the fetus as a result of consuming water with MCHM levels below 1 part per million. Although there is no information that suggests harm to the fetus, out of abundance of precaution, pregnant women may wish to consume bottled water until levels of MCHM are undetectable in the water system.

  • Question: May I go to restaurants or can I cook with the water?

Answer: Yes. You may continue to use tap water for cooking. It is also safe to consume food which may have been prepared using tap water, as with food cooked in restaurants.

  • Question: I've already consumed the water, have I hurt my fetus (unborn baby)?

Answer: We have no information to suggest that consuming water with these low levels of MCHM poses any health risk to you or your baby. If you have any concerns, you should consult your physician.

  • Question: I'm pregnant; can I wash with the water?

Answer: We have no information to suggest that bathing with water with these low levels of MCHM poses any health risk to you or your baby. Washing with soap and water is important to prevent illnesses that may cause harm to the unborn baby (e.g., flu, respiratory, and stomach ailments).

  • Question: I'm breastfeeding and I drank the water, will that hurt my baby?

Answer: We have no information to suggest that there is any harm from breastfeeding.

  • Question: Does our water contain other chemicals?

Answer: Yes, to protect public health, water contains, for example, chlorine and fluoride.

  • Question: May I make my baby's formula with the tap water?

Answer: Yes, however, if you have a special needs child, for example a premature baby, check with your pediatrician.

  • Question: May I wash my baby with the water?

Answer: Yes, there is no known risk from bathing in the water.

  • Question: May I wash fruits and vegetables with the water?

Answer: Yes, there is no known risk from washing fruits and vegetables.

  • Question: May I do dishes, clean or mop, and do laundry with the water?

Answer: Yes, there is no known risk from these activities.

  • Question: I've been drinking the water since the ban was lifted, have I hurt my unborn baby or my child who is breastfeeding?

Answer: Short term exposure at these levels is not likely to cause any adverse health effects for you or to your baby.

  • Question: If I do not have access to bottled water and I'm thirsty, would it hurt my baby if I have a glass of tap water?

Answer: Short term exposure at these levels is not likely to cause any adverse health effects for you or your baby.

  • Question: I made ice after the ban was lifted, have I hurt my unborn baby?

Answer: No. Short term exposure at these levels is not likely to cause any adverse health effects for you or your baby.

  • Question: May I use ice made with tap water?

Answer: Out of an abundance of caution, if you prefer your drinks cold, use bottled water to make ice or use ice made with water collected after levels of MCHM are undetectable in the water system.

  • Question: May I brush my teeth with tap water?

Answer: Short term exposure at these levels is not likely to cause any adverse health effects for you or your baby.

  • Question: I showered and I accidentally swallowed some tap water?

Answer: Short term exposure at these levels is not likely to cause any adverse health effects for you or your baby.