Number of People Showing Symptoms During Water Crisis Much
Higher Than Previously Thought
The State Journal
22 April 2014
By Christina Fan, Reporter
CHARLESTON, WV - Approximately 100,000 people experienced symptoms
after the Freedom Industries’ spill into the Elk River, according
to Dr. Rahul Gupta, the executive director of the Kanawha
Charleston Health Department. The updated numbers were released
during a teleconference Tuesday morning hosted by Gupta and Dr.
“What this data implies is that the public health impact
associated with the event was woefully and grossly
underestimated,” said Dr. Whelton.
Earlier projections indicated 544 people were evaluated at local
hospitals as of Jan. 24, according to Allison Adler, a
spokesperson for the West Virginia Dept. of Health and Human
Resources. Twenty-six patients were put under further examination,
then treated and released.
Gupta explained the data was compiled from two sources. Outpatient
data obtained by the Kanawha Charleston Health Department
estimated 92,568 people experienced symptoms. In-home testing
conducted by Dr. Whelton in the days following the spill drew a
preliminary estimate of 108,819.
The most common symptoms people reported were skin irritation,
nausea, and eye irritation. Dr. Whelton claims there were two
spikes in patient reporting. The first spike was on Jan. 9, the
day of the chemical spill. The second spike was on Jan. 13, when
parts of the population were notified to flush their systems. Most
people reported feeling symptoms while at home, at work, or at a
The findings were released hours before an online conference
hosted by the National Association of County & City Health
Officials between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.