Department of Public Health Says Cancer Risk Studies Will Continue Southwest of Chicago
On March 29, 2019, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) released news that the Willowbrook Cancer Incidence Assessment study involving the area surrounding the Sterigenics facility in DuPage County found that cancers were indeed elevated. The increased cancer risk presents a public health hazard, prompting IDPH to investigate the implications associated with ethylene oxide (EtO) emissions in the Willowbrook area and recommend for further research.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), EtO is a colorless gas commonly used to sterilize some types of medical equipment and in fact carcinogenic to humans. The Sterigenics plant was ordered in February of 2019 by the Illinois EPA to seal its containers of the chemical and stop using EtO to sterilize devices.
First Cancer Risk Study Was Limited, But Findings Still Alarming
In the first study, IDPH officials say they “used the Illinois State Cancer Registry to review cancer cases that were diagnosed between 1995-2015, in residents of two specific study areas …. examined all cancers and divided them into two population groups.”
Study Group 1: Female breast, and lymphohematopoietic cancers, specifically include Hodgkin’s lymphoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, myeloma, and lymphocytic leukemia.
Study Group 2: Cancers routinely examined when conducting a cancer assessment study, which are oral cavity, esophagus, stomach, colon and rectum, liver, pancreas, lung and bronchus, bone, melanoma, breast, cervix, uterus, ovary, prostate, testis, bladder, kidney, brain, and nervous system, leukemia, thyroid, and all other cancers.
The study evaluated adult cancers but also examined pediatric cancers for children ages 0-19 years old including leukemia, lymphomas, central nervous system tumors, neuroblastoma, retinoblastoma, renal tumors, hepatic tumors, bone, soft tissue, germ cell tumors, and all other sites.
Initial Assessment Findings Showed Elevated Cases of Lymphomas
A higher number of Hodgkin’s lymphoma cases among women were observed and in some areas was almost 90 percent higher than expected and became more pronounced beginning in 2009 in both study areas.
Breast cancer was higher in both study areas and pediatric lymphoma cases were also elevated for both study areas. Other adult cancers observed to be diagnosed at higher rates include prostate, female pancreatic, and ovarian cancers.
IDPH says the first study was limited and more evaluation is needed with larger populations to confirm these initial assessment findings. IDPH is also set to schedule a webinar with concerned community members and individuals with questions can contact the IDPH Division of Epidemiologic Studies at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have You or Someone You Love Been Exposed to Toxic Emissions in Your Illinois Community?
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.