CHICAGO, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- The Chicago departments of Public Health and Environment are trying to determine whether there is a common link in a cluster of cancer cases and other illnesses among employees of the Cook County Juvenile Center building.
Public Guardian Patrick Murphy has asked the city to shut down nearby Acme Barrel Co., alleging fumes and pollution from the plant may be responsible.
Health spokesman Tim Hadac said investigators will meet with cancer victims and other employees of the Juvenile Center to talk about air quality but he said, other factors also need to be examined.
Acme, which covers a full city block, cleans industrial barrels for reuse. Murphy, in a letter to Environment Commissioner William Abolt, said the Juvenile Center's air intake system sucks up fumes from the plant and circulates them in the building.
"My employees, other court personnel and residents in the area routinely complain of headaches, sinus pain, sore throats, dizziness and eye irritation when exposed to ... Acme Barrel emissions, both inside and outside the Juvenile Center," Murphy wrote.
Murphy told Monday's Chicago Sun-Times four former and current employees of the Juvenile Center are suffering from breast cancer.
"While no one can say at this time the cause is inhalation of ... Acme Barrel fumes, it obviously should be considered as a possible source or contributor to the illness," Murphy wrote.
Acme quality manager Sam Fiegura told the Sun-Times the company had not yet seen the letter and had no comment.
The city has cited the company for pollution violations and environmental officials said 79 complaints have been lodged against the company in the past two years.
The county last week hired Keter Consultants of Willow Springs, Ill., to conduct air-quality tests.