Because of a major spill in West Virginia of a chemical used to wash coal, more than 300,000 people were left without water that they could drink, or even use to bathe or clean. And in a surreal twist: no one can tell them a thing about what, exactly, were the risks of the chemical that contaminated the water, 4-mehtylcyclohexane methanol, or MCHM. There is no available safety data.
West Virginia’s Governor says “There’s no excuse for this.” But in fact, chemical manufacturers have a huge excuse: it is legal–even though the American Association of Poison Control Centers says MCHM is harmful if swallowed or inhaled. Tens of thousands of potentially toxic chemicals are legally on the market. As Richard Denison, an expert at EDF on chemical policy reform, points out, the latest spill brings “the failures of TSCA into sharp focus.” TSCA is our main chemical safety law–and it has not been updated since 1976.
MCHM was allowed onto the market with no evidence that it is safe. Worse, 62,000 chemicals were grandfathered by TSCA in the 70s. We have no information–from industry — about what these chemicals are doing to us. We know next to nothing about their carcinogenic effect, their mutagenic effects, their teratogenic effects, leading to congenital malformations, their developmental toxicity. But scientists and researchers are discovering a great deal of disturbing evidence that some of these chemicals — things we breathe as well as ingest every day — are harmful to human health. The “antique tank” that is leaking is owned by Freedom Industries, which has ties to the Koch Brothers — obviously free of regulations. But at Moms Clean Air Force, we believe in freedom from exposure to poisonous chemicals.
Please tell Congress to get back to work. Give us the strongest possible protection against toxic chemicals and safeguard the health of the most vulnerable among us, our children.