Residents of Waukegan, Illinois who live near the Medline plant are worried about ethylene oxide emissions.
Researchers are saying that they have confirmed higher levels of the chemicals in some of these residents’ blood tests. CBS 2 crews came to the house of 11-year-old Kobe Darden and his mother Annette after learning about the rise in dangerous chemicals inhabiting some Waukegan residents’ blood.
“You think that your child is going to get cancer,” Annette told CBS 2. Annette was referring to her son’s blood tests that came back from a pilot survey from the UIC School of Public Health. Officials there said the level of ethylene oxide found in Kobe’s blood is nearly twice that of the average non-smoker.
“It’s in our backyard,” said Annette, referring to the Medline plant that releases the harmful chemical. For most of Kobe’s life, he’s lived about a mile from Medline. The plant sterilizes medical instruments using that colorless gas.
“I can’t even wrap my head around it to be honest with you – the fact that we’re dealing with this,” said Annette.
UIC’s Dr. Susan Buchanan took blood samples from 93 residents who live near the facility.
“We found that the average level of people living closer to the plant was significantly higher than the average in the group that lived farther away,” said Dr. Buchanan.
“I’m strongly considering moving, and I don’t want to do that. This is where I made my home,” said Annette.
“Any facility that is emitting a carcinogen, even legally, in my opinion shouldn’t be located near homes, residences, daycare centers or schools,” said Dr. Buchanan. She stressed that the sample was limited and there isn’t enough data to draw sufficient conclusions.
A Medline spokesperson says they’re taking this matter seriously, but they question what, if any conclusion, can be drawn from the limited data.
“In 25 years, we’ve never seen any indication that there’s been elevated levels of ETO within any of our work,” said Medline Spokesperson Jesse Greenberg.
Medline officials say they ultimately believe that residents who live near the plant are safe. Company officials say they’re going through a $10 million upgrade, which will capture 99.9 percent of all ETO emissions.
Critics say that no level of ETO emissions are safe. Darden says she and other residents will take their concerns to the Waukegan City Council on Monday night.