CHARLESTON — One group is calling for action after a new study claims the January Elk River Chemical Spill could have far worse health issues than what has been reported.
People Concerned About Chemical Safety (PCACS) is calling on West Virginia Governor Earl Ray 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 http://www.southce.org/ajwhelton. To sign PCACS petition, visit www.chemsafety.org and click on the petition link.
Whelton used a $70,000 National Science Foundation grant for that project and others. He led separate spill research for Gov. Tomblin’s administration.
The spill caused a tap-water ban for 300,000 people for days.
To read the study, visit the online link at http://www.southce.org/ajwhelton/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Whelton_2014NACCHOClosingPlenary.pdf