West Virginia Water May Still Be Unsafe For Pregnant Women

Amid continuing concerns over the health effects of a West Virginia chemical spill into the Elk River, which contaminated the water supply of about 300,000 area residents, government officials indicate that pregnant women still should not use tap water due to remaining levels of chemicals that could cause problems like nausea, vomiting, dizziness and rashes.

On January 9, water usage in 9 counties of West Virginia was shut down, after a storage tank owned by Freedom Industries leaked 7,500 gallons of 4-methylcyclohexane, or MCHM, into the Elk River. The chemical spill occurred upstream from a water intake for West Virginia American Water Company, the regional drinking water supplier.

Although West Virginia Water Company told area residents on Monday that their drinking water was now safe, reports suggest that more than 100 area residents required emergency room treatments this week after drinking the water. Health problems linked to consuming the “safe” water included reports of eye irritation, rashes, nausea, and claiming the licorice smell was still present in the water.

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On January 16, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that recent testing of the water shows contamination levels below 1 part per million, which is acceptable under government standards. However, pregnant women are still be warned to avoid using the tap water until the chemical is undetectable and flushed from the pipes.

The chemical that leaked into the Elk River was an agent used for washing coal and when contacted may cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea, rashes, and redness of skin. The tainted water containing the chemical will have a faint licorice smell but no color difference.

As a result of the spill, multiple lawsuits are being pursued against both Freedom Industries and West Virginia American Water Company. To date, both residents and local restaurants are filing lawsuits against the two companies in Kanawha County Circuit Court.


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