Two Illinois senators and four Illinois congressmen have sent a letter to Andrew Wheeler, the Acting Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The letter demanded he “take several steps to protect the community of Willowbrook, Illinois, which is facing a public health threat posed by a Sterigentics sterilization facility.” The Sterigenics plant uses ethylene oxide as part of the sterilization process, a chemical the EPA believes increases the risk of cancer.
“Alarming” Levels of Cancer-Causing Chemical Near Sterigenics
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Sen. Richard Durbin, Rep. Sean Casten, Rep. Bill Foster, Rep. Daniel Lipinski, and Rep. Bradley Schneider signed the letter. Sterigenics uses ethylene oxide, classified as a known carcinogen in 2016. The EPA’s National Air Toxics Assessment and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry state the nearby community “has an increased cancer risk.”
Data that EPA published last week “indicates that despite installing pollution control equipment high levels of EtO were measured, threatening the health of Willowbrook residents.” Eight air monitors placed throughout Willowbrook collected the data over three months. The letter characterizes the data as “alarming.” In one incident, the ethylene oxide detected was “350 times more than the level deemed safe by EPA.”
Demand for EPA to Take Action
The letter demanded Acting Administrator Wheeler do the following in response:
- Have a third-party, unbiased engineering firm conduct an emission audit of Sterigenics.
- Issue an interim final rule for sterilizers. “Simply put, in extraordinary cases, when harm can be done if action is not immediately taken, EPA must be compelled to act in the public interest without delay.”
- Open a criminal investigation into allegations of misconduct by former employees in a recent CBS 2 News report. The former Sterigenics employees made “alarming allegations of misconduct by senior management.” These allegations included “failure to accurately self-report EtO emissions, improper venting practices, failure to protect worker with respirators and masks, and dumping ethylene glycol into public sewage drains.”
- End the comment process on ethylene oxide’s updated risk assessment. The lawmakers said it was “buried in EPA’s December 20, 2018 Residual Risk and Technology Review (RTR) for Hydrochloric Acid.” They characterized it as “a transparent invitation for chemical industries to propose ways to weaken EPA’s forthcoming policies meant to protect communities from cancer risk resulting from exposure to EtO.”
- Investigate whether Sterigenics “violated its conditional registration” of ethylene oxide under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.
- Continue ambient air monitoring around Sterigenics beyond the current three-month period.
- Commission a nationwide study on the background levels of ethylene oxide.
The lawmakers concluded that “It is time for EPA to move from fact-finding to acting on this public health threat in Willowbrook.”
Sterigenics Lawsuit Attorneys
The GWC Law Firm has been retained by several parties who have lived or worked near the Sterigenics facility for a number of years and have developed cancers or other serious medical conditions that may be related to their exposure to ethylene oxide gas.