After The Spill

Of all the questions surrounding a Jan. 9 chemical spill in West Virginia, this might be the most disturbing: How dangerous was the chemical? About 7,500 gal. (28,390 L) of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM) seeped into the Elk River when a tank holding the coal-cleaning solvent ruptured. Three hundred thousand people were left without access to running water and were unable to use their faucets to drink, cook or bathe for five days.

No human health data exists on MCHM, just a single study on rats. That's because MCHM is one of almost 62,000 chemicals that were grandfathered in when the Toxic...

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