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Consuming Vegetables after a Chemical Fire?

Vegetable Garden
Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco
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Vegetable Garden

Residents within the Chemtool evacuation zone are concerned about eating vegetables from their gardens.

The latest guidance from the Winnebago County Health Department and the University of Illinois Extension recommends thoroughly washing and rinsing any vegetables grown outside before eating them.

The Winnebago County Health Department adds via a tipsheet available on the website that “Leafy vegetables can be soaked in a 10% vinegar solution to lift soil particles from produce."

Sonya Lunder is a toxics policy advisor for the Sierra Club, and she says ultimately residents will have to follow their gut.

“So, you know, while washing your vegetables is always good advice, and for many people who are living out of the way, it might be perfectly safe,” said Lunder. “I would be more cautious for people who are in the zone where there was thick smoke or who have ash falling.”

Lunder encourages residents to practice more caution than usual when it comes to any potential voluntary exposure to a mixture of industrial chemicals.

Pictures of metal flakes and debris peppered across the lawns of affected residents are uploaded daily to the Citizens for Chemtool Accountability Group, a Facebook page dedicated to sharing information related to Chemtool Fire.

Meanwhile, the county health department reports that air quality samples are stable, but soil sampling data has yet to be reported.

Juanpablo covers environmental, substandard housing and police-community relations. He’s been a bilingual facilitator at the StoryCorps office in Chicago. As a civic reporting fellow at City Bureau, a non-profit news organization that focuses on Chicago’s South Side, Ramirez-Franco produced print and audio stories about the Pilsen neighborhood. Before that, he was a production intern at the Third Coast International Audio Festival and the rural America editorial intern at In These Times magazine. Ramirez-Franco grew up in northern Illinois. He is a graduate of Knox College.