The chemical that leaked yesterday into a West Virginia river "hasn't been studied very well," says Deborah Blum, a New York Times science columnist who specializes in reporting on chemistry.A state of emergency was declared for nine West Virginia counties yesterday after a chemical called 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol spilled into the Elk River. The chemical is "used to wash coal of impurities," according to the Times.
The chemical leaked from a holding tank owned by a company called Freedom Industries, according to West Virginia American Water, a water company operating in the region. At present, the nine counties are under a "do not use" advisory from West Virginia American Water, and residents there do not know when they will be able to turn on their taps.
A rush on bottled water subsequently ensued, as documented in this tweet from a local news anchor:
Undoubtedly much more information will emerge on 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol and how dangerous it is (or isn't) in water. But to start things off we turned to Blum, who was just a guest on our Inquiring Minds podcast.
"We know methanol is toxic, we know that methylcyclohexane is moderately toxic, but I haven't seen a full analysis of the entire formula," says Blum....