Update: Sterigenics Plant in Willowbrook Has Been Shut Down

“Emissions are continuing to contribute to ambient levels of ethylene oxide in the atmosphere.  This impact creates an imminent and substantial endangerment to public health.”
-John Kim, Acting Director of the Illinois EPA

 

On Friday, relying on new data from independent 30 day continuous air quality tests ordered by Willowbrook village officials, Governor Pritzker overruled the U.S. EPA  and, in tandem with the Illinois EPA, ordered the immediate closure of Sterigenics.

Sterigenics Inc., the Willowbrook plant accused of pumping dangerous levels of cancer-causing ethylene oxide (EtO) into the air, has been defiant, arguing that they are fully in compliance with state and federal regulations. Nearly 20,000 residents live within a mile of the Sterigenics, a company that has trademarked the motto “Safeguarding Global Health.” Sterigenics releases ethylene oxide as part of the sterilization process of medical equipments, pharmaceuticals, and foods and spices.

Cancer Risks Near Sterigenics Significantly Higher Than Acceptable Average
Cancer risks higher than 100 in a million typically land companies in trouble with federal officials. In May, tests conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, found cancer risks near the plant to be 6,400 per million, or 6 cases of cancer for every 1,000 residents.

As Levin & Perconti noted in an October blog post, that same report by ATSDR showed that EtO emissions from Sterigenics have actually declined since 1998, when the plant took steps to install some sort of infrastructure that would reduce emissions.

This summer, Sterigenics again took action to reduce EtO emissions, but testing independently ordered by the Village of Willowbrook found that levels are still dangerously high.

Among the findings from these tests:

  • High levels of ethylene oxide have been found just this month in surrounding areas.
  • Elevated EtO emissions were also found in the air at Gower Middle School (Burr Ridge) and Gower Elementary (Willowbrook).

As a result of Friday’s emergency order, Sterigenics has been sealed. In a statement, the company denounced the Governor’s order to shut down their operations, saying that “Unilaterally preventing a business that is operating in compliance with all state permits and regulations from carrying out its vital function sets a dangerous precedent.” Sterigenics also said they plan to fight the closure in court.

For now, residents in Southeast DuPage County can finally, for the first time in decades, breathe a bit easier.

Fighting Sterigenics Is Personal to Us
The news of Sterigenics releasing dangerous levels of cancer causing ethylene oxide into the community is a personal mission for us. Our founding partner, John Perconti, is a lifelong resident of one of the surrounding communities found to have an elevated risk of cancer.

If you live near Sterigenics and believe ethylene oxide may be behind your diagnosis or a loved one’s diagnosis of cancer or other serious health issues, contact the personal injury attorneys of Levin & Perconti now for a FREE consultation. You have nothing to lose: we are not paid unless we recover money for you. Call 312-332-2872 to speak to an attorney now or complete our online case evaluation form and our attorneys will call you back at your convenience.

 

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