Study suggests MCHM could be more toxic than originally reported - Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Study suggests MCHM could be more toxic than originally reported

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Six months after the Jan. 9 Freedom Industries chemical spill, when thousands of gallons of MCHM spilled into the Elk River, environmental engineer Andrew Whelton released new data that suggests the toxicity levels of crude MCHM are much higher than had been previously reported.

Whelton, a University of South Alabama researcher, and his team conducted an exposure test on Daphnia magna, a freshwater indicator organism, to replicate the 1998 MCHM toxicity study conducted by Eastman Chemical Company, which made and sold MCHM to Freedom Industries.

In the original study, Eastman concluded that the “no observed effect concentration,” or NOEC, for crude MCHM was 50 milligrams per liter. Whelton’s team, however, found an NOEC of only 6.25 milligrams per liter. In other words, it takes a much smaller concentration of MCHM to cause toxic effects than Eastman had originally found.

Whelton was scheduled to report his preliminary findings of the study during the July 10 National Association of City and County Health Official Conference held in Atlanta. A day prior, he released key findings of the study online. 

This study was not part of Whelton’s work for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s West Virginia Testing Assessment Project, or WVTAP, which was authorized a month after the spill.

In response to the data release, human rights, health and safety advocacy group People Concerned About Chemical Safety released a statement calling on Gov. Tomblin and the Center for Disease Control to swiftly undertake additional testing on crude MCHM.

“We can no longer rely on industry self-reporting to protect the public health,” Maya Nye, executive director of PCACS, said in the statement. “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)."