CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – A state official said Wednesday that he “can guarantee” some West Virginians are breathing in a carcinogen while showering after the chemical spill that spurred a water-use ban.
The crude MCHM that spilled into the water supply ultimately can break down into formaldehyde, Environmental Quality Board official Scott Simonton told a state legislative panel Wednesday. He added that the breakdown can happen in the shower and that formaldehyde is most toxic when inhaled.
He also called respiratory cancer the biggest risk with breathing in the chemical.
“I can guarantee that citizens in this valley are, at least in some instances, breathing formaldehye,” Simonton said. “They’re taking a hot shower. This stuff is breaking down into formaldehyde in the shower or in the water system, and they’re inhaling it.”
Initial testing at Vandalia Grille in Charleston showed traces of the chemical. Other testing showed no traces of formaldehyde, but samples are still being processed.
The testing is funded by a Charleston law firm, Thompson Barney LLC, which is also representing businesses that lost money because they couldn’t use water for days.
Freedom Industries’ spill in Charleston spurred a water-use ban for 300,000 West Virginians, but officials have lifted it.
State officials believe the leak of crude MCHM and stripped PPH started Jan. 9. Freedom Industries has estimated 10,000 gallons of chemicals leaked from its tank.
“We know that (crude MCHM) turns into other things, and these other things are bad,” Simonton told reporters Wednesday. “And we haven’t been looking for those other things. So we can’t say the water is safe yet. We just absolutely cannot.”
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