Wednesday, January 22, 2014

There Must Be Something In The Water- The MCHM Contamination Caused by Freedom Industries.

The recent water catastrophe caused by Freedom Industries that contaminated the water in 9 counties in West Virginia, and then travelled downstream into the Ohio River, potentially effecting hundreds of thousands of people between Charleston, WV and Louisville, KY made me wonder what else is in our water, and who is violating the Clean Water Act. The press just keeps reporting that the further downstream the HCHM goes, the more diluted it will get.  This chemical is not water soluable. ( (see chart)(

A 2012 Environment America report found that, again, the Ohio River led the nation in the amount of toxic chemicals released into it by industries. ( They found that there are 32 million pounds of discharge into the Ohio River. This was up by around 1 million pounds from the study they did in 2009. They based the study on what industries reported to the EPA in 2010. They are required to report it under the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory. Ninety three percent of the discharges were nitrate compounds, which can cause algae blooms and  "dead zones."

In 2011 Ohio was rated the second worst in the nation by the Environmental Integrity Project and the Sierra Club for emission of chromium, arsenic, lead, and mercury into the water. Ohio rated number one for mercury and selenium.

The EPA Toxic Release Inventory shows that Ohio released 70 million pounds of toxic air pollutants in 2009; 45 million pounds (65%)of that was from the electric industry. The report found that half of all the toxic air pollution comes from coal and oil fired power plants

Freedom Industries filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy just days after the spill and has begun publicly blaming West Virginia American Water for the problem because they didn't shut down the water intake system fast enough, even though they are only about 1.5 miles downriver from Freedom Industries.  West Virginia American Water plans to file counter suits placing the blame on Freedom Industries. WV American Water appears to be the largest creditor in any lawsuits, meaning the people of West Virginia will have to take what is left over.

According to figures reported by The Natural Resources Defense Council, the study conducted in 1989 to determine the toxicity of MCHM was flawed and therefore made the determination by the CDC of what was an acceptable level flawed. For one thing they studied the effects of pure MCHM and what was actually spilled into the Elk River was crude MCHM. (

The Examiner reported and later said it was unverifiable that The U.S. Navy laboratory at Norfolk Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Va. says that the only acceptable level of the chemical in any oral form is less than 0.057 ppm, less than 1/16th the amount that Governor (Earl Ray) Tomblin had said was an acceptable level.
To hydrolyze means that something dissolves or disperses in water. For days now the media and government has been reporting that MCHM would go away in the Ohio River, while simultaneously saying that Louisville was going to filter out what was left with charcoal. But the NIH National Institutes of Health says it will not hydrolyze because it " lacks functional groups that hydrolyze under environmental conditions".

Twelve days after the leak was reported, people were told that PPH was also in the tank.  At this point, I began researching what that was. To my dismay, although they had been telling us that MCHM probably wasn't toxic and would go away, although they really didn't know, since not much information was available, I found that PPH is listed by OSHA as a hazardous chemical. The following contains information saying that under the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 Title III(Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act of 1986) Sections 311 and 312 it is an Immediate Acute Health Hazard

I was not surprised to find that Dow Chemical makes it (PPH). I also find it highly unlikely that someone in their company which is near Freedom Industries didn't look to see if they had sold them any of it to mix with the MCHM. The PPH was invented by Union Carbide of Bhopal fame, which Dow Chemical bought out. Freedom Industries and Dow Chemical are approximately 9 minutes away from each other.  One of the uses of it is in photo developing solutions,which explains why Eastman Industries makes it.(  But in this instance,  Eastman Industries manufactured the MCHM and Dow manufactures the PPH.

P-series glycol ethers are used in degreasers, cleaners, aerosol paints and adhesives. P-series glycol ethers are generally high performance industrial solvents

(Industrial Solvents Handbook, Revised And Expanded, Nicholas P. Cheremisinoff - 2003 )

"All glycol ethers have a low vapor pressure and a high potential for dermal absorption.
Inhaling glycol ethers can result in dermatitis with erythema, edema, and weeping; hyperpigmentation, and photosensitization. Exposure to ethylene glycol monoethyl ether can cause depression of the central nervous system, resulting in headaches, drowsiness, weakness, slurred speech, tremor, and blurred vision. Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether is regarded as the most toxic glycol ether used as a solvent. Exposure can result in bone marrow damage, headaches, drowsiness, weakness, slurred speech, tremor, and blurred vision. Exposure to vapors can result in respiratory, nose, throat, and eye irritation. Exposure to propylene glycol monomethyl ether can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation. High levels become objectionable because of the chemical's odor."

This stuff is chemically similar to dry cleaning fluid(classified as carcinogenic to humans by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and must be handled as a hazardous waste) and ether. However the FDA classifies it as "generally recognized as safe."

Glycol ethers started to be used in different applications during the 1930s.  During the sixties and seventies, the range of applications for glycol ethers expanded.  This includes the use of glycol ethers in surface coatings. Without glycol ethers, many water-based coatings would not function like in decorative consumer paints and car painting operations by manufacturers.  Wood coatings, coil and anticorrosion coatings use glycol ethers.  Other important coating types include adhesives and inks in screen printing.  Cleaning products, cosmetics, specialty chemical manufacture, leather goods manufacture, electronics manufacture are other applications in the use of glycol ethers. Other uses include manufacture of agricultural products and in fire fighting foams, and in paper, textile, rubber, and constructions industries. (

Propylene glycol is a minor ingredient in the oil dispersant Corexit, used in great quantities during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill(BP Oil Spill)Water-propylene glycol mixtures dyed pink to indicate the mixture is relatively nontoxic are sold under the name of RV or marine antifreeze, and  it is used as aircraft de-icing fluid. It is also contained in electronic cigarettes.

Propylene glycol is known to exert high levels of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) during degradation in surface waters. This process can adversely affect aquatic life by consuming oxygen needed by aquatic organisms for survival. Large quantities of dissolved oxygen (DO) in the water column are consumed when microbial populations decompose propylene glycol.

Corexit has come under scrutiny for possible adverse effects on marine life and humans that are exposed to it. In 2012, a study found that Corexit increases the toxicity of oil by 52 times.(

Having now discovered this connection between Corexit and PPH, it becomes clear that someone knew that PPH was mixed in with the MCHM, and it was why they were so sure it would disperse. They knew that it was mixed with a solvent. It would be a good thing to know for sure which of the two chemicals was in the water.

But to be honest, even the PPH sucks the oxygen out of water, and despite the FDA approval of it, that doesn't seem like a good thing, for people, let alone the aquatic life. And I found it disturbing that it has been used in asthma inhalers and nebulizers since the 1950’s. Again, that effect on oxygen, since that is one of the purposes of our lungs.
( for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has this to say about it:

Affected Organ Systems: Dermal (Skin), Renal (Urinary System or Kidneys), Respiratory (From the Nose to the Lungs)

Propylene glycol is a synthetic liquid substance that absorbs water. Propylene glycol is also used to make polyester compounds, and as a base for deicing solutions. Propylene glycol is used by the chemical, food, and pharmaceutical industries as an antifreeze when leakage might lead to contact with food. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified propylene glycol as an additive that is “generally recognized as safe” for use in food. It is used to absorb extra water and maintain moisture in certain medicines, cosmetics, or food products. It is a solvent for food colors and flavors, and in the paint and plastics industries.

Propylene glycol is also used to create artificial smoke or fog used in fire-fighting training and in theatrical productions. Other names for propylene glycol are 1,2-dihydroxypropane, 1,2-propanediol, methyl glycol, and trimethyl glycol. Propylene glycol is clear, colorless, slightly syrupy liquid at room temperature. It may exist in air in the vapor form, although propylene glycol must be heated or briskly shaken to produce a vapor. Propylene glycol is practically odorless and tasteless.

"This substance/agent has not undergone a complete evaluation and determination under US EPA's IRIS program for evidence of human carcinogenic potential."(

"Propylene glycol is the main ingredient in "safer" forms of engine antifreeze/ coolants. Prestone's Low Tox® and Sierra ® are two commercial forms of propylene glycol antifreeze available in the US. Propylene glycol is approximately 3 times less toxic in dogs than ethylene glycol. The oral LD50 of PG in dogs is 22g/kg and according to a study, no clinical signs were seen when a dog was given an acute dose of 20 ml/kg.

Propylene glycol is metabolized to lactate. In toxic quantities, acidosis, liver damage, and renal insufficiency are possible. Clinical signs of a propylene glycol toxicoses include CNS depression, weakness, ataxia, and seizures. With large ingestion, diuresis and supportive care, such as treatment for acidosis, should be given. The usefulness of 4MP (Fomepizole) for treating PG toxicosis is not known and treatment with ethanol may cause more problems in relation to the development of acidosis."(The Veterinary Support Personnel Network; (
Notice this says less toxic, and not nontoxic.

Although less toxic than EG, ingestion of propylene glycol (PG) may be associated with a toxic syndrome similar to the acute phase of EG toxicosis. The oral LD50 of PG in dogs is ~9 mL/kg. In cats, ingestion of a diet containing 6–12% PG can result in Heinz body formation and decreased RBC survival. Treatment of PG toxicosis is largely supportive—the use of alcohol dehydrogenase inhibitors is not indicated. Ingestion of PG may result in false-positive EG test kit results.(

This stuff may have been deemed safe by the FDA, but the veterinary community disagrees with it being safe for animals. It can literally kill a horse. "The accidental administration of propylene glycol to horses may result in fatal poisoning."(

Obviously, it couldn't have been good for the wildlife environment. The jury is out on the effect on humans.

This chemical is pervasive in our environment and has been used in the medical field since at least the 1930's. Despite the FDA saying it is safe, the medical community;i.e. doctors know that when it is used to deliver medicines it causes propylene glycol toxicity. The symptoms include cardiac arrhythmia, seizures and coma and organ failure.( is one of the world’s leading providers of online medical health information.
"Propylene Glycol is a chemical used mainly in cosmetics and in antifreeze and as a pharmaceutical solvent. Ingestion and other exposures to the chemical can cause various symptoms. The type and severity of symptoms varies depending on the amount of chemical involved and the nature of the exposure. The list of signs and symptoms mentioned in various sources for Chemical poisoning -- Propylene Glycol includes the 10 symptoms listed below:

Eye irritation
Eye redness
Eye pain
CNS depression
Black fecal discoloration
Reduced blood pressure
Tearing eyes

Despite all of this the EPA says that it is safe. (

One of the products made with PPH is aircraft de-icer. Aircraft deicing fluid (ADF) is used to maintain safe flight conditions. After use, the fluid typically mixes with storm water runoff and can potentially enter lakes, rivers, and streams. This can have at least two detrimental water quality effects: (1) the dissolved oxygen in the water body can be lowered, and (2) potentially toxic deicer chemicals can affect fish and other aquatic life.

When discharged to a lake, river, or stream untreated, aircraft deicer can cause two potential
problems: a reduction of dissolved oxygen, and aquatic toxicity. Oxygen reduction is due to
glycol, and toxicity is due to deicer anticorrosion and surfactant additives. In addition,
degradation products of glycols and additives may be toxic.( Division of Energy)

Although some departments of the government consider it safe, depending on what is mixed with the antifreeze it can become highly toxic to aquatic life. (

The FDA while saying that propylene glycol is safe in food and cosmetics, and which has no jurisdiction over tobacco products, issued a statement noting that electronic cigarettes contain "carcinogenic elements such as propylene glycol, an ingredient found in antifreeze."

Generally, you have to be exposed to or ingest higher levels of propylene glycol for it to be as toxic.

The MSDS is very telling. It says that it causes CNS depression, seizures, coma arrhythmia, cardiac arrest, hypoglycemia, damage to kidneys and liver. (
This MSDS says that if you get it on your skin, wash it off immediately and apply an emollient. However, Dow says, "prolonged PG contact is essentially non-irritating to the skin." (

I propose that Americans demand a new EPA regulation; i.e. Nobody can go around saying something is safe, when some other government agency already said it wasn't. And The FDA can't tell us that something is o.k. and then turn around and say it isn't, because the tobacco industry pressured them to do it, as in the case of the E-cigarettes.