Pregnant Women Wary of Recently Tainted West Virginia Water

Friday, 17 Jan 2014 11:40 AM

By Ken Mandel

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Though residents have been told it's safe to resume drinking tap water in West Virginia, some pregnant women in the area remain understandably uneasy.

"It's very upsetting," Jennifer Kayrouz, who is 38 weeks pregnant, told ABCNews. "I am not ingesting it, but I felt safe enough to shower in it ... and was still washing dishes by hand. ... I have a master's in public health, and I know people are very polarized on this issue, but I put my faith in our local health department that said the water was safe. I feel like it wasn't right."

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Kayrouz, 38, lives in Knawha City, one of the first communities to receive the okay to being drinking the water. Four days earlier, a chemical spill dumped 4-methylcyclohexane methanol in Charleston, contaminating the water supply.

The drinking ban was lifted for residents on Jan. 13, but on Jan. 15, the state's Health and Human Resources department issued an advisory for pregnant women based on the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention's guideline. Citing "an abundance of caution," pregnant women should drink bottled water "until there are no longer detectable levels of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, or MCHM, in the water distribution system."

Kayrouz also expressed concern for her 6-year-old daughter, and the family pets.

"If it is not safe for me to drink pregnant, is it safe for my 55-pound daughter to drink or our pets?" Kayrouz told ABC News. "It's very misleading. We got the green light, and three days later were told this one population really shouldn't drink it. It kind of flies in the face of my training. What are we supposed to believe?'"

The West Virginia American Water spill has affected 300,000 citizens in the southern part of the state. When it happened, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin issued a state of emergency for the nine counties.

Freedom Industries has been cited for violations at facilities where chemicals are stored, Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Tom Aluise told The Associated Press. This week, 200,000 began drinking the water again.

Part of the fear revolves around the fact that so little is known about 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, especially its effect on a developing fetus. The CDC has determined that water with levels of one part per million are safe to drink, according to ABC News.

"It's kind of scary," Brandy Russell, community director for the West Virginia March of Dimes, told ABC News. "A few years back there was a leak at Dupont in the Ohio Valley, and they said the same thing: 'Everything is back to normal. And a few years later there were multiple issues.

"Everyone is freaking out."

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