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.