Crews clean up a chemical spill along the Elk River in Charleston, West Virginia, which compromised the public water supply of eight counties on Thursday, January 9.

Correction: The Material Safety Data Sheet of TCI America was linked to a prior version of this story. However, TCI America was not the manufacturer of the product involved in this leak. We regret the error.

CNN  — 

More than 100,000 people in central and southern West Virginia have been advised not to drink the water because it’s possibly unsafe. A 48,000-gallon storage tank along the Elk River is leaking a chemical called 4-methylcyclohexane methanol. It’s often confused with other similarly named chemicals that can potentially be lethal.

To help avoid confusion, here’s some information about 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, taken from the American Association of Poison Control Centers and CNN’s previous reporting:

This chemical is used to:

– Wash coal before it goes to market to reduce ash, also known as the “froth flotation process” of coal preparation

People can be exposed to this chemical by:

– Inhalation

– Ingestion

– Skin and/or eye contact


– Nausea

– Vomiting

– Dizziness

– Headaches

– Diarrhea

– Red or irritated skin

– Itching

– Rashes

Little is known about the safety implications for 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, according to the state’s Poison Control director Dr. Elizabeth Scharman because it hasn’t been adequately studied.

West Virginians told not to drink or bathe in water