Acid Attack Victims Ask City To Crack Down On Sulfuric Acid Sales

CHICAGO (CBS/WBBM) – It’s a chemical so dangerous, you can’t legally possess it in Chicago. And two local women say it changed their lives forever. Now they’re fighting to make sure no one else is scarred by liquids like sulfuric acid.

CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports the City Council is trying to ban the sale of the acid, too. On Monday morning, members of the Finance Committee voted overwhelmingly to do that.

But some hardware store owners and other retailers aren’t sure this is the best way to prevent future acid attacks.

But the two victims who testified Monday, say it’s a necessary step.

Karli Butler and Esperanza Medina were attacked with sulfuric acid in separate incidents. They have since joined forces, to try to urge lawmakers in Chicago and Springfield to restrict access to acids and make it harder to use them as a weapon.

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“I’m dead. I feel dead sometimes,” said acid attack victim Esperanza Medina. “But I am lucky that I met this woman here, and I got to keep on going.”

And she does. Esperanza Medina is now on a mission.

She, and Karli Butler, another acid attack victim, don’t want any other woman to bear scars like they do. So, they’re fighting to keep sulfuric acid off Chicago’s shelves.

“This is only the beginning,” said Medina.

Butler was attacked with acid in 2006 by somebody who was angry with her boyfriend at the time. She has scars on her face, her stomach and her arms.

Medina and Butler became friends this summer, during the trial of two women who threw acid in Medina’s face.

Their efforts got the attention of Finance Committee Chairman, Ald. Ed Burke.

“So my point is, if we are banning spray cans of paint, why are we not banning the sale of sulfuric acid?” said Burke.

The full City Council will now vote on that ban, and vote on imposing a $500 to $1,500 fine on anyone caught with the deadly acid.

“This is huge for us today, to have people listening and have people actually care that we went through this,” said Butler. “And we don’t want it to happen to anyone else, so I’m so happy, I’m so elated that we’ve gotten this attention.”

Right now, anyone can walk into almost any hardware store to buy the toxic drain opener.

“I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be put behind the counter or why they shouldn’t regulate who can purchase it especially when people are getting hurt. I think the public’s safety and protection is much more important than a dollar,” Butler said.

But longtime store owner David Meyers isn’t sure a ban is the best answer.

“Where do you stop and start? That’s what I want to know. Where do you stop and start, at selling a drain opener versus a gallon of bleach?” said Meyers.

The Illinois Retail Merchants Association has some concerns with an outright ban, too.

But State Rep. Susana Mendoza, who’s backing a statewide ban, says one compromise may be creating a registry of who buys the substance.

“Your average citizen day in and day out does not need access to this. Now, if you want to get extra strength Nyquil, you can’t — you need to sign up for a registry,” Rep. Mendoza said.

That’s something some aldermen brought up, too, and it may be part of the discussion when the ordinance goes to the full council later this month.

  • Yanz

    We can’t go around banning everything whenever someone gets hurt. Acid is intended to open pipes and does it well, there is no substitute. No people don’t buy it everyday nor do they buy paint. It’s for a project and you use what you need. I’m sorry the women were hurt and it’s tragic, but what about going back to an eye for an eye and a tooth and a tooth justice, that would be fair. Where would it end? Let’s ban matches and lighters. More kids and adults get killed and burned because of fires. Kids play with matches everyday and get burned. That what fires do, burn things. Go to Laribedia Children’s Hospital and see the kids in the burn unit and you will feel real bad, but banning matches is not the answer. How about banning baseball bats? How many people are beaten to death with bats each year? Too many are but we don’t ban them. How about making the criminal penalty much more severe? That is what makes more sense in my opinion not banning things. No one has died from the acid attacks but cigarettes, alcohol, sugar, fat, eggs, peanuts and more actually kill people and they are not banned and have minimal regulations. Politicians think before you act an waste our time, we got lots of important issues that need to be addressed and that affect more people.

  • bob

    What someone did to this woman was horrible. Remember the other woman did it to herself.

    Banning the acid is stupid as the acid is in all car batteries. Is Chicago now going to ban car batteries as well as yard tractor batteries as well? Get a grip!! Maybe if they actually caught and punished criminals more of these things wouldn’t happen.

  • royalfuzziness

    It should be out of the reach of the general public,unless you work in heavy industry or in a lab. You have no business handling something something this dangerous.

  • Debbie

    This would be completely impractical and unenforceable as every car, truck, golf cart, fork lift, boat have lead-acid batteries with a quart or more of sulfuric acid in them. To solve a problem you need to find the root cause and that is not acid — its people who have poor character.

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