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Pregnant women in West Virginia warned not to drink the water

Monday, January 20, 2014 by: Julie Wilson
Tags: pregnant women, drinking water, West Virginia

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(NaturalNews) While on Wednesday the "do-not-use" ban was lifted for nearly half a million W. Va. residents following the leak of 7,500 gallons of a foaming agent used to clean coal, a separate warning has been issued specifically for pregnant women.

Residents were told to begin flushing their pips Monday evening at 7 p.m. and through 7 a.m. the next morning, and were told by Wednesday that the ban would be permanently lifted. On the day the ban was lifted, more than 100 residents had gone to the ER reporting symptoms relating to exposure to the chemical.

"My ears were burning," said a 24-year-old resident who decided to take the plunge and use his shower.

"I've got red places on my feet and back and a red rash on my back," he said. "I don't think it was handled properly."

"I think it was way too soon. I don't think they had very much information about it."

Late Wednesday, state officials advised pregnant women in the nine counties affected by the chemical spill not to drink the water until it tests for absolutely no 4-methylcyclohexane methanol.

"Due to limited availability of data, and out of an abundance of caution, you may wish to consider an alternative drinking water source for pregnant women until the chemical is at non-detectable levels in the water distribution system," said CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden.

On January 9, news spread of the licorice-smelling chemical leaking into the water supply via a hole in a storage tank at a company called Freedom Industries, located just half a mile up the river from the area's water supplier, West Virginia American Water Co.

The leak, which affected nine counties and Charleston, the state's capital and most populated city, triggered W. Va. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to issue a state of emergency subsequently involving assistance from the Department of Homeland Security and the Environmental Protection Agency.

While the American Association of Poison Control Centers admitted the effects of human exposure to 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, also known as "crude MCHM," is mostly unknown, exposure to the chemical can cause vomiting, skin rashes and irritation of the throat, chest and stomach.

"If a pregnant woman can't drink this... no, we're not feeling safe here in West Virginia," said one Charleston mother. She referred to the latest warning as "more disturbing news." She also expressed outrage over the lack of details provided to the public regarding the dangers of the chemical. She demanded answers regarding the chemical's long-term effects but so far has received none.

"We don't know the safety info, how quickly it goes into air, its boiling point," said Elizabeth Scharman, the state's poison control director.

Laura Jordan, the external affairs manager for West Virginia American Water, said approximately 51,000 customers, or 153,000 people, had their "do-not-use" order lifted Wednesday night.

In a separate interview with CNN, another concerned parent said they were considering leaving the state permanently due to its negligence and admitted that they didn't feel comfortable with their children drinking the water, even though the ban had been lifted.

Pesticides and pregnancy

Women who are pregnant are particularly more sensitive to chemicals and pesticide exposure. Babies' nervous systems develop rapidly during the first trimester, leaving early pregnancies the most vulnerable throughout the development of the neural tube. A report by the California Birth Defects Monitoring Program reveals that three out of every four women are exposed to pesticides around the home.

Women who are exposed to household gardening pesticides or live at least a quarter of a mile from agricultural crops show an increased risk in early delivery, oral clefts, neural tube defects, heart defects and limb defects in babies.

The area in which the leak occurred is known as "Chemical Valley," and West Virginia itself is the second-largest coal-producing state, behind Wyoming. The state's economy is highly reliant upon business generated from the coal and chemical industry. Currently, the state contains 150 chemical companies that employ nearly 12,000 workers.

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