A report by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows that there has been a quick decline in the levels of the cancer-causing chemical ethylene oxide following the closure of the Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook, IL. Lawmakers say the report suggests that Sterigenics was responsible for the area’s high levels of the carcinogenic gas.
50 to 90 Percent Lower Since Shutdown
On February 15, 2019, Governor JB Pritzker ordered the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to take action against the Sterigenics facility in Willowbrook, following testing that showed “extreme daily fluctuations” in ethylene oxide levels and “the highest levels of [ethylene oxide] recorded in the area to date.”
IPEA Director John Kim issued a “Seal Order” prohibiting the company from pumping ethylene oxide gas into sterilization chambers. The order effectively shut down the facility’s operations. On February 20, a federal judge denied Sterigenics’ emergency request for a temporary restraining order that would allow the facility to reopen.
When the Sterigenics facility was shut down, EPA officials kept monitoring equipment in place in the surrounding area. On March 21, the EPA released the results it had gathered in the six days immediately following the ban on Sterigenics’ use of ethylene oxide.
The results show that there were no spikes of ethylene oxide detected during the period, unlike on many of the testing days before the Willowbrook facility was shut down. The average levels of ethylene oxide after the shutdown were at least 50 percent lower at each of the ten monitors and more than 90 percent lower at the testing locations closest to Sterigenics.
“We’re seeing a pretty rapid drop since the seal order,” said Lewis Weinstock, an EPA official overseeing the testing.
Lawmakers Argue Sterigenics Must Remain Closed
Following the report, Congressman Dan Lipinski’s office issued a press release stating that “Sterigenics is clearly the culprit” for the area’s high levels of ethylene oxide and insisting that the plant remain shut down.
“The health and safety of the people that live, work, and go to school near Sterigenics must be protected,” said the statement.
Additionally, Sen. Tammy Duckworth tweeted “Just received new air quality data from Willowbrook, which further suggests that Sterigenics was the main source of toxic Ethylene Oxide emissions that put families at risk – and that IEPA was right to take strong action.”
“This is EXACTLY why it’s so important for @EPA to also conduct air monitoring outside of the 2 facilities that produce Ethylene Oxide emissions in Lake County,” she added.
Based on information the agency already has collected, EPA scientists are conducting a more detailed evaluation of cancer risks in Willowbrook and surrounding suburbs. The report is expected to be released to the public before a community forum in late May.
More than 25,000 people live within the area surrounding the Sterigenics facility in Willowbrook. Four schools and a daycare center are within a mile of the facility.
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.
If you have lived or worked near the Sterigenics facility in Willowbrook and have been diagnosed with cancer, contact the GWC Law Firm for a free consultation today. Call us at (312) 464-1234 or click here to chat with one of our representatives at any time.