Willowbrook Sterigenics Investigated for Emitting Invisible Cancer-Causing Gas to Residents and Workers
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is headed to the neighborhood of one of Levin & Perconti’s founding partners, John Perconti, to perform “ambient air testing” at the Willowbrook Sterigenics facility in DuPage County. Sterigenics is a global company which runs contract business for sterilization services. The Willowbrook facility, currently at the center of a toxic emissions review, sterilizes medical devices such as syringes and surgical procedure kits. The emission in question, Ethylene Oxide (EtO), is a known carcinogen and airborne substance identified as troublesome and cancer-causing for residents and workers who are ongoingly exposed. In 2007, the EPA issued standards to reduce emissions of EtO from hospital and medical device sterilizers to protect workers and community residents from damaging air pollutants.
An August 2018 public report prepared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) titled “Evaluation of Potential Health Impacts for Ethylene Oxide Emissions” showed workers and residents who live nearby Sterigenics have been exposed to elevated airborne EtO concentrations. The ATSDR further concluded that “an elevated cancer risk exists for residents and off-site workers in the Willowbrook community surrounding the Sterigenics facility,” and that “these elevated risks present a public health hazard.” ATSDR officials have put forth the recommendation that Sterigenics “take immediate action to reduce EtO emissions at this facility.”
The recommendation, along with public outrage and pressure on local lawmakers, unusually high community cancer risks and an increased occurrence in diseases that typically take years to develop may have triggered the upcoming EPA testing.
Why Ethylene Oxide (EtO) is Dangerous?
EtO is most often found in the production of solvents, antifreeze, textiles, detergents, adhesives, polyurethane foam, and pharmaceuticals. Acute exposures to EtO gas may result in:
- respiratory irritation and lung injury
- shortness of breath
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says chronic exposure to EtO has been associated with the occurrence of cancer, reproductive effects, mutagenic changes, neurotoxicity, and sensitization. The cancer risk is highly concerning for this case as DuPage County carries one of the nation’s highest incidences of cancer, and the emission issue is likely to have created one of the state’s largest cancer clusters. According to the EPA, the upper limit of acceptable cancer risk for airborne toxins, such as EtO, is 100 in 1 million. In 2014, EPA measurements from the immediate DuPage County area surrounding the Willowbrook Sterigenics facility, showed a cancer risk of nearly three times higher than the EPA’s acceptable limits.
Many residents and workers have been rightfully left concerned, anxious, and upset from the federal investigation that found the company has been emitting dangerous levels of EtO for more than thirty years. Meanwhile, Sterigenics says emission levels are “below detection limits” and that “the facility and equipment are operating up to standards.”
Exposed to Sterigenics Reckless Toxic Emissions?
If you have a health injury or are the survivor of someone who may have died from the use or exposure to a dangerous chemical or air pollutant like EtO, it’s important that you know your rights under the law. Contact us online or call us at 877-374-1417 or 312-332-2872 to set up a FREE consultation with a Chicago injury lawyer to discuss your legal options. Responsible parties should be held accountable.