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Date of Original Version



Environmental and Natural Resource Economics


In January 2014, Freedom Industries spilled 4-methylcyclohexylmethanol, a chemical foaming agent used in coal processing, from a storage facility into the Elk River in West Virginia. This chemical spill, one of the most significant in U.S. history, adversely affected the drinking water supply of over 300,000 individuals in the Charleston, West Virginia Metropolitan area. We use synthetic control methods to estimate the casual effects on macro-economic growth and infant health outcomes from this water crisis. We find a significant decrease in 5-minute Apgar Scores, a measure of how babies fare in the birthing process and outside of the womb, after the chemical spill. We do not find significant effects for infant birthweight or gestational age. We find a statistically insignificant decrease of per capita GDP in the Charlestown, West Virginia area compared to the synthetic control of 3% two years after the chemical spill.