In my mind, the media fell short on their coverage of this whole debacle. The real story was not that 10,000 gallons leaked into a river.
From: Casparian, Armen
Sent: Wednesday, February 05, 2014 1:08 PM
Subject: Question About MCHM
In the January 20 edition of C&EN, in the article "Toxicity Unknown," we are told that East Chemical manufactures 4-Methylcyclohexanemethanol (MHCM) and Freedom Industries buys it (and it crude form, which probably means it contains some unknown impurities) to use as a coal cleaning agent in coal powered electric power generation stations. Also mentioned is the fact the 37 year old Toxic Substances Control Act is supposed to regulate substances used in commerce. In this matter, that responsibility falls on the shoulders of EPA. The article also states that "companies are not mandated to submit hazard information to EPA, except when data suggest the possibility of substantial risk." Further, the article states that "TSCA sets up complex legal requirements that EPA must meet before the agency can require manufacturers (I assume Eastman Chemical) to provide toxicity data for a chemical in commerce." What does the law say about the responsibility of users buying the chemical,!
like Freedom Industries? Risk is a product of the health hazards and the probability of an accident occurring, i.e. leaking into the Elk River. It seems from the MSDS provided by Eastman Chemical, a thorough knowledge of the health effects of MHCN was undetermined. Being in crude form, it may or may not have a CAS #. As a regulatory and enforcement agency, shouldn't EPA have required more thorough studies and documentation about this chemical, from either Eastman Chemical or Freedom Industries, before allowing it in commerce? Perhaps, these "complex legal requirements" need to be changed. Moreover, what do Freedom Industries records show as far as periodic inspections of the storage tanks and their condition, as required by OSHA regulations? A somewhat similar set of circumstances were present in the Bhopal, India accidental release of methyl isocyanate (MIC) in 1984. And we know what the consequences were then. In the same issue, in the "Safety First " =91from t!
he editor' article, I think Jim Kaufman is right on target when he states that "It's criminal that principals and superintendents (in this case company chemical health and safety inspection teams as well supervisory regulatory inspection teams) aren't paying more attention to compliance with health and safety regulations."
Armen S. Casparian
Professor (Retired), Dept. of Sciences
Wentworth Institute of Technology
Boston, MA 02115
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