"If people have gotten symptoms, and that's their only exposure, yeah, I think they should stop drinking it until it goes down lower," Clapp said. "I don't think it means that the safe level should be 0.1 parts per million or lower, but for the people experiencing symptoms . . . they should probably stop drinking the water."
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources plans to monitor the patients for future health problems, according to a spokeswoman.
"After this crisis, DHHR epidemiologists, with the assistance of CDC epidemiologists, will conduct a population surveillance, including the review of patient charts," the DHHR's Allison Adler said in a prepared statement. "It is important to wait for all patients to be released from the hospital and to have a complete record prior to starting this surveillance so that the most accurate data is available."
Adler said no information about specific patients would be released.
"The DHHR has significant experience in performing these surveys as it is part of our Public Health mission," she said.
By Wednesday, more than 20 lawsuits had been filed in Kanawha Circuit Court. Most were filed by businesses shut down during the state of emergency declared by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, but some are from people concerned about their health.
Several people have sued over the unknown effects of being exposed to contaminated water and hope to be granted medical monitoring. Others claim they already are experiencing health problems.
Melissa Jean Medley said in a lawsuit that she was admitted to Thomas Memorial Hospital on Friday for "chemically induced pneumonitis with tests indicating an abnormal condition to her lung, extreme coughing, and vomiting."
On Wednesday, Richard Gravely filed a lawsuit claiming that he's been suffering from headaches, blurry eyes and wheezing since he took a bath around 2 p.m. Jan. 9, the day the do-not-use advisory was issued by WVAW.
Cornellisus D. Christian filed a lawsuit Wednesday claiming that he and his 8-year-old daughter fell ill after drinking the water. He said they didn't find out about the do-not-use order until Friday and drank contaminated water after dinner Thursday.
Dr. Alan Ducatman, a professor of occupational and environmental health at West Virginia University's School of Public Health, said there's a lot that health officials don't know about exposure to the chemical, "Crude MCHM."
Ducatman said there have been a couple reports of worker exposure to Crude MCHM and that, if he remembered correctly, not a lot happened. He added that worker exposure is different than exposure to the public. The workers were likely not drinking it but inhaling the chemical and they might have gotten some of it on their skin, he said.
Ducatman said he didn't want to second-guess the levels the CDC have said are OK. No one can say for sure that it will or will not make people sick, he said.
"The answers don't come at the same speed as the toxin is put in the water," Ducatman said. "There's a lot we don't know. We do know that's this is not as toxic as the things that scare us the most. But that doesn't mean it's not toxic."
Staff writer Kate White contributed to this report.
Reach Lori Kersey at lori.ker...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.