Rockton man diagnosed with chemical exposure upon returning home after Chemtool fire

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ROCKTON, Ill. (WTVO) — More than a week after the Chemtool plant exploded, the Environmental Protection Agency is upholding its findings that the air in Rockton is safe to breathe, but one resident says, despite what the EPA says, the fire has taken a toll on his health.

“My diagnosis at the hospital was exacerbation of asthma and exposure to chemical inhalation,” said Jeremy Oster, who said his symptoms came on after returning home to clean his house on Friday.

Oster lives within one mile of the plant.

“I had really hard breathing from my chest, clogged sinuses, pain…which the doctor said is from cartilage, from coughing,” he said.

Oster received his diagnosis from the Beloit Health System.

“Because of that exposure that we know just happened recently, if the patient was in the vicinity of the area, it’s the most likely cause,” said Dr. Martine Schultheis, of OSF Family Medicine.

Dr. Schultheis said tests and patient history can determine chemical exposure as the cause of certain symptoms, and she recommends anyone with respiratory symptom make an appointment with their doctor if they feel sick.

“Sometimes, you don’t know what’s burning in the chemicals. It could be carbon monoxide, it could be any other poisonous gas or cyanide, so you don’t want them deprived of oxygen and cause fatal conditions,” Dr. Schultheis said. “So yes, definitely seek medical care immediately.”

Oster said his family are now staying at hotels and camping, instead of at home. He also said his symptoms subside when he’s away from home.

“That’s why [the doctor] told me she doesn’t want me to be in the house, or take my mask off at all [in the house] anymore,” he said.

Oster said he doesn’t know where he and his family will go in the future.

“I don’t think we will return home and start sleeping here again. I think we will probably end up moving,” he said.

The EPA is still monitoring air quality in Rockton, and say they have not detected abnormal levels of hazardous chemicals in the air.

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