Articles Posted in Current Issues

Illinois water pollution

2000 Illinois Homes in University Park Without Safe Drinking Water

Due to dangerous lead levels found in tap water, could the Illinois community of University Park become the next Flint, Michigan or Newark, New Jersey? It’s been nearly a month since University Park’s mayor declared a state of emergency sparked by a “do not consume water” advisory made by Aqua Illinois. Aqua Illinois is the private company that supplies water to University Park and other suburbs in Cook, Kane, Kankakee, Lake and Will counties. Aqua officials issued the order after detecting extremely elevated lead levels in the drinking water of 15 properties in University Park, Green Garden and Monee Townships in June of 2019 and suggested the problem would be fixed in just a “few days.” More than 2000 homes and thousands of community members are still without answers and safe to consume their home’s tap water.

Toxic lead exposures can happen in many ways but in this case likely occurred because of unkept, damaged and corroded water pipes and plumbing with lead solder, which allows the lead to leach into the same drinking water pumped into homes, schools, hospitals, businesses and everywhere else the pipes connected.

Children and Infants Neglected at Immigrant Detention Centers 

A new report described the humanitarian crisis involving U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and more than 250 children, including infants living in “squalor and neglect” due to a lack of sanitation, food, and water at a facility in Texas. Within the report were interviews between lawyers, physicians, psychologists, and caseworkers and the children who shared information about their living conditions. Several media outlets have since covered the story and shared these horrific examples of neglect.

  • The Associated Press: “The conditions within which they are held could be compared to torture facilities,” said Dr. Dolly Lucio Sevier. “That is, extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water, or adequate food.”

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Three Veterans Die by Suicide in One Week at VA Facilities 

Veterans advocacy groups are pleading for the inspectors general of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Department of Defense and Department of Health and Human Services to promptly begin a joint investigation after three veterans took their own lives at VA facilities in just one week. According to VA representatives, since 2017 the department has tracked 260 suicide attempts at its facilities, with 240 of those having been interrupted.

As many as 20 veterans are dying by suicide each day. This is a tragically preventable number that reflects one and a half times higher than the civilian population’s suicide rate. Obviously, this group of American heroes is pleading for help.

chicago cancer risk exposure

Department of Public Health Says Cancer Risk Studies Will Continue Southwest of Chicago

On March 29, 2019, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) released news that the Willowbrook Cancer Incidence Assessment study involving the area surrounding the Sterigenics facility in DuPage County found that cancers were indeed elevated. The increased cancer risk presents a public health hazard, prompting IDPH to investigate the implications associated with ethylene oxide (EtO) emissions in the Willowbrook area and recommend for further research.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), EtO is a colorless gas commonly used to sterilize some types of medical equipment and in fact carcinogenic to humans. The Sterigenics plant was ordered in February of 2019 by the Illinois EPA to seal its containers of the chemical and stop using EtO to sterilize devices.

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2018 Report Shows Nearly 100 Children Died While Involved in Illinois Welfare System

Each year, the Office of the Inspector General investigates deaths and serious injuries of Illinois children whose families were involved in the child welfare system. The Illinois Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) Office has released a report by Acting Inspector General Meryl Paniak stating 98 children involved with the child welfare agency died in fiscal year 2018. The deaths were investigated between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018. No names or exact locations were used in the report but Cook County was home to the highest number of deceased children connected to the system compared to the rest of the state.

Paniak expressed concern in a letter to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration and the General Assembly saying, “The incidence of child maltreatment is deeply influenced by poverty, violence, mental health and substance use. System-wide collaboration and data-sharing across multiple service sectors—child welfare, juvenile justice, early childhood, education, public health, and behavioral and mental health fields—are essential to improving child and family safety and well-being on a broad scale.”

pollution in chicago

Willowbrook Sterigenics Investigated for Emitting Invisible Cancer-Causing Gas to Residents and Workers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is headed to the neighborhood of one of Levin & Perconti’s founding partners, John Perconti, to perform “ambient air testing” at the Willowbrook Sterigenics facility in DuPage County. Sterigenics is a global company which runs contract business for sterilization services. The Willowbrook facility, currently at the center of a toxic emissions review, sterilizes medical devices such as syringes and surgical procedure kits. The emission in question, Ethylene Oxide (EtO), is a known carcinogen and airborne substance identified as troublesome and cancer-causing for residents and workers who are ongoingly exposed. In 2007, the EPA issued standards to reduce emissions of EtO from hospital and medical device sterilizers to protect workers and community residents from damaging air pollutants.

An August 2018 public report prepared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) titled “Evaluation of Potential Health Impacts for Ethylene Oxide Emissions” showed workers and residents who live nearby Sterigenics have been exposed to elevated airborne EtO concentrations. The ATSDR further concluded that “an elevated cancer risk exists for residents and off-site workers in the Willowbrook community surrounding the Sterigenics facility,” and that “these elevated risks present a public health hazard.” ATSDR officials have put forth the recommendation that Sterigenics “take immediate action to reduce EtO emissions at this facility.”

Ikea, the Swedish home retail giant, has agreed to pay $50 million to 3 families whose children were killed after being crushed by toppled dressers. To these families, money will never be able to replace what they have lost, but the settlement is expected to send a strong message to legislators and furniture manufacturers that parents are demanding better quality, safer furniture.

An Unsettling Statistic

According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, a child dies once every 2 weeks from falling furniture or televisions. While there is no federal law requiring specific safety measures be followed in furniture production, there are voluntary national safety standards that manufacturers should follow. According to the lawsuit filed by the victims’ families, Ikea consistently refused to meet those standards and their negligence directly resulted in the death of 3 children, each 2 years old.

The holiday season is right around the corner. Many of us will be getting together with family and enjoying food and various activities. In my family, the kids will be running around, the adult men will be watching sports while the adult ladies spend time socializing. Though this time of the year brings great joy, there is always the risk of injury and some injuries are specific to this time of the year. This post will hit on this concept and will warn you of these risks.

Common Holiday Injuries

According to Rebound Orthopedics and Neurosurgery, there are a number of injuries incurred while decorating for the holidays. Decoration injuries typically involve falls, lacerations and back strains. In fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that there were more than 15,000 reported injuries sustained while decorating during November and December of 2013.  

Hiking is a very popular outdoor activity enjoyed by millions. According to the National Park Service (NPS), more than 280 million people come to its recreational areas every year. This time of the year, being fall, is a popular time to go hiking given the cool weather and leaves changing color.

Yet, as fun as hiking may be, the risk of injury runs rampant. Some trails pose risk of serious bodily injury and even death! Just last month, September 2016, a 17-year old boy was seriously injured when he fell 50 feet while hiking at Starved Rock State Park. This young boy was initially hiking with two of his friends when he suddenly decided to climb outside of the marked trail at the Pontiac Canyon. After climbing outside of the marked trail, the young boy fell 50 feet to the ground. Life flight took him to a nearby hospital where it was listed that the boy was in a serious condition. At Starved Rock, there are several signs reminding visitors that it is required that they stay within the park’s 12-mile marked trail.    

If you were adhering to the rules of the park, yet were still injured, or if you were injured by defective hiking equipment, it is important that you hire an experienced personal injury attorney. You may be entitled to compensation for your damages.

Flying is a very popular mode of transportation. The International Air Transport Association (“IATA”) reports that, on average, more than eight million people fly every day. Flying is also considered the least dangerous mode of transportation according to Business Insider. Walking and driving are deemed more deadly than flying!

However, do not let these findings fool you; airline mistakes can occur. Recently, at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, an American Airline Boeing 767’s right General Electric engine failed while the plane attempted to takeoff. This caused the plane’s right side to erupt into flames and resulted in engine debris being shot out about a half a mile.

The plane had 161 passengers and nine crewmembers onboard at the time of this incident. Luckily, everyone escaped this inferno. The passengers on the plane escaped by using the plane’s emergency slides. Following everyone’s escape, the airport’s fire crew arrived at the scene. This was important as time was of the essence. The airplane had nearly 43,000 pounds of fuel!

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