An amendment from Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha, that would have given local health departments funding to begin immediate medical monitoring of long-term health impacts from the chemical leak was defeated.
Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, told the committee that it was urgent to begin screening for a medical monitoring program as soon as possible. He said that the actual monitoring didn't need to begin immediately, but they needed to identify people to be included in a study.
Gupta said that health departments need to identify "high dose" consumers - who began using the water immediately after do not use orders were lifted - as opposed to "low dose" consumers who waited much longer to use the water.
But if individuals are not identified very soon, it becomes difficult for people to remember how much water they used and when, a phenomenon Gupta called recall bias.
"You are introducing statistical bias by every day that goes on" without identifying people for the study, Gupta said.
Gupta said that unless health departments receive additional funding they will be unable to begin the process.
Once the individuals are identified, health departments can collect data on them for a number of years.
Gupta said that he thinks the number of people who have reported symptoms at hospitals - more than 500 - is just the tip of the iceberg, and a larger number have been "toughing it out." He emphasized that we have no data from animal studies to determine if the chemical accumulates in bodily organs, and if so, in which ones.
Gupta's calls for urgency conflicted with testimony given at another legislative meeting earlier Wednesday, by Dr. Letitia Tierney, commissioner of the state Bureau of Public Health. Tierney said that the state was working to develop a medical monitoring program, but stressed patience.
Reach David Gutman at david.gut...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.