Scott Simonton, a Marshall University professor, released information this week saying that formaldehyde had been found in the water when testing was done at a restaurant in downtown Charleston. Simonton says that MCHM, the chemical leaked into the Elk River on January 9, breaks down and forms formaldehyde. “Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen and where it’s most toxic is inhalation,” Simonton said. “I can guarantee you the citizens of this valley are at least in some instances breathing formaldehyde. Taking a hot shower, this stuff is breaking down, formaldehyde, in the shower, in the water system and they are inhaling it.”
The Bureau of Public Health as well as WV American Water have publicly dismissed the claims, stating that Simonton’s statement was both misleading and irresponsible. Dr. Letitia Tierney, Commissioner of the State Bureau of Public Health, insists that Simonton’s findings were unfounded and that until confirmed, water customers should not show any extra concern.
Research done by subject matter experts who have been assisting West Virginia through this entire emergency has found that the only way possible for formaldehyde to come from MCHM is if it were combusted at 500F. The World Health Organization says that formaldehyde is commonly found naturally occurring in both air and water.
Results of an official investigation into the matter have yet to be released.