Kevin Robinson was the Chicago Police Department officer who accidentally inhaled a cleaning substance in the Morgan Park station, had to be put into a medically induced coma and subsequently died (“Family, friends stunned by officer’s death”, Chicago Tribune, April 8th, 2011).
As Officer Robinson was, I, too, am a veteran cop. At least seven years back I filed a formal safety complaint, because when I asked the exterminator about to spray in our lockup what chemicals were in the mix, he instead tossed me the empty bag (coated with powder residue inside): the instructions clearly stated it was for use in well-ventilated areas – but neither the policewomen’s work area here nor the cellblocks have windows or exhaust fans to the out-of-doors, nor do many of the other work areas.
I know several officers who worked in windowless offices where the copier chemicals and particulate matter cranked out for hours on end – they still do. At least one such officer began suffering allergic symptoms which continued after he retired and to this day. A number of women who worked inside the same edifice endured breast cancer diagnoses. Say it with me: Sick Building Syndrome?
I suggested strategically placed windows in the lockups, but to date have received no comment or resolution on my complaint. Apparently the City chooses to risk more lawsuits (which the taxpayers ultimately have to bear) and more health problems among us. After all, what can blue shirts know about chemistry?
There are substances which don’t stink and clean just as well as whatever-it-was in those industrial mixes; in some cases they’re cheaper. Why doesn’t Chicago’s self-styled Green Mayor live up to his moniker and provide them? If the CPD had not only heeded my safety complaint those many years ago but also immediately looked at all chemicals it uses in police facilities, then taken a proactive stance and replaced the hazardous ones with benign, Kevin might be alive today.
former assistant instructor in tai chi chu'an; current TreeKeeper (#467); former Master Gardener; member of American Bird Conservancy, Audubon, Fraternal Order of Police, and Mensa; recently retired career cop; wife and mom.