More Chemophobia from West Virginia

The scare concerning the spill of crude 4-methylcyclohexylmethanol keeps on going.  In this one, which has been reported in numerous news outlets the chemical or the polyglycol ethers, I’m not sure which, create formaldehyde.  The state  who told the legislature about this new development, Scott Simonton is quoted as saying “It’s frightening, it really is frightening,” Simonton said. “What we know scares us, and we know there’s a lot more we don’t know.”  Apparently the highest exposure is when people are taking a shower.  This seems to be based on two analyses of water at one location in which some samples were found to have ~30 ppb formaldehyde and that the chemicals can break down to formaldehyde.

Countering this claim are state officials who indicate that you need to burn the MCHM at 500°F to get some formaldehyde formed from the chemical.

The OSHA TWA (8 hours exposure) is 0.75 ppm (in air).  Formaldehyde in air is quite irritating.  Some people are affected at 0.1 ppm and most by 0.2 ppm.  If you are in 0.75 ppm formaldehyde in air, you will definitely know it.  Also, my experience with formaldehyde was that even with very sophisticated equipment, it was difficult to quantitate very low levels. 

Maybe scares like this sell newspapers or advance causes, but they really don’t do the public any good. 

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