Biology Period: 1
15 January 2014
How Dangerous Is the Coal-Washing Chemical Spilled in West Virginia?
The chemical that spilled into the waters in West Virginia is called methyl cyclohexane methanol or MCHM for short. The chemical is used to clean coal and helps separate the burnable fossil fuel from the unburnable rock and dirt and other contaminations. Because of the spill, 300,000 people can’t drink, cook, shower, or do anything involving water and it touching your body. The people of West Virginia have been living off bottled water for everything they do. The schools were closed along with some work offices. It has been said that MCMH should not be swallowed and may readily cause skin and eye irritation but it is not known to pose major risks to human health and safety. Some of the West Virginia citizens stated it smelled like a type of licorice. MCMH can burn but only when concentrated and at relatively high temperatures above 112 degrees Celsius, but it is not explosive or corrosive. "We may not have the information to know whether it's really safe for the general population," including children, the elderly, the sick or pregnant women, says chemist Richard Sachleben, who works in pharmaceutical research and development. He adds that shutting everything down was the best possible thing to do. This substance is the safest of the others and is also far less dangerous than some other industrial solvents (PCBs for example), byproducts (such as dioxin) and other liquid industrial spills (fly ash slurries). Americans are exposed to more industrial chemicals every day that pose far more risk. Scientist Halden states that the spill is similar to a gasoline spill and that it shouldn’t be a long term concern to citizens.
The article was interesting mainly because it expressed and showed how serious the spill that occurred was but also gave a sense of calmness when it told readers the accurate seriousness of the spill with...
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