National Toxicology Program

National Toxicology Program

West Virginia Chemical Spill

Photo by Raymond Thompson - West Virginia University reserachers collect water samples at the confluence of the Elk and Kanawha Rivers NTP carried out a research program to predict the toxicity of chemicals present in the West Virginia Elk River chemical spill. NTP used several experimental approaches including studies in rodents, toxicity tests in cells and other lower animal species (such as fish and worms), and computer modeling. Throughout a year of conducting these studies, NTP regularly provided updates on their progress and results.

See the NTP research project plan and studies and results for more information.


In January 2014, approximately 10,000 gallons of chemicals used to process coal spilled from a storage tank into the Elk River in West Virginia. The Elk River is a municipal water source that serves about 300,000 people in the Charleston area.

In July 2014, NTP received a nomination from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to conduct toxicity studies on the predominant chemicals known to be involved in the West Virginia chemical spill. The primary spilled agent was 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM). Other chemicals were also present in lower amounts in the tank. Limited data were available to address concerns for potential human health effects for the compounds in the spilled liquid, so NTP studied a number of chemicals (see the Table of Chemicals for NTP Studies).

NTP is located at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.