Health Effects of Toxic Spill in West Virginia=Unknown

When MCHM, a chemical that is used to clean coal, spilled into the water of West Virginia, it resulted in an inconvenient, though very necessary water ban during the cleanup process. While the ban from using tap water is slowly being lifted, many of the state’s residents are still struggling to go about their daily routines faced with the restriction. In the meantime, much anxiety has been stirred about the immediate and future health problems that this spill may have caused.

Water drop

Water drop (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Unfortunately, there is much that is unknown about how MCHM affects humans. This is largely due to relaxed regulations of chemical use that stem from the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) of 1976, which allows the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate chemical substances. According to the TSCA, the EPA has 90 days to test compounds and chemical substances before they are allowed for public use.

After the 90 day time limit is over, the tested chemical is deemed shelf ready and companies are free to use it at will. However, experts have stated that “the EPA is not typically able to properly assess new compounds within that time frame.”

Many people who have had direct contact with the polluted water have ended up in hospitals with head to toe body rashes. If external symptoms are this serious, what are the other internal health effects?

It’s time that we advocate for more regulations when it comes to chemical use, and demand more transparency about the chemicals we are being exposed to on a day-to-day basis that may also be, at times, too loosely controlled. Only then can we know how to protect ourselves more effectively against each substance.

What do you think about the chemical regulation procedure? And, what else do you think we should learn from this tragedy in West Virginia? Please comment below.

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Dana Howell

As an Executive Assistant to the CEO and President of Campaign Consultation, Inc. I primarily work on initiatives with Very Special Older Properties (VSOP), Transit Choices, and the School of Social Work. Prior to joining Campaign Consultation, I worked as account manager for a growing medical company, interned with both the U.S. House and Senate focusing on health care and national security, and served as part of the Commerce Department for the U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen where I helped U.S. companies find potential business partners in Denmark. Read more.