More concerns arise at Sterigenics in Willowbrook

By Kevin Beese Staff Reporter

Kevin Owens of Willowbrook participates in a December protest outside Sterigenics offices in Oak Brook. Twelve recent samplings taken near the medical equipment sterilization company in Willowbrook show elevated readings of ethylene oxide, bringing concerns from the Illinois attorney general and DuPage County state’s attorney. (Photo by Kevin Beese/Chronicle Media)

The Illinois attorney general and DuPage County state’s attorney are concerned over recent readings that show an elevated level of ethylene oxide in Willowbrook.

The readings are related to Sterigenics, a medical equipment sterilization company with facilities in Willowbrook.

Attorney General Kwame Raoul and State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said in a joint statement that 12 more days of EO sampling results from November and December “show a clear link between [EO] emissions from the Sterigenics facilities and elevated [EO] levels within the Willowbrook community.”

“The citizens of DuPage County should not have to endure this exposure to a known human carcinogen,” Raoul and Berlin said. “We are coordinating our review of the data released with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Willowbrook [EO] Task Force, which includes retained environmental professionals, including toxicologists. We will exercise all available legal authority to protect the community from this exposure.”

Sterigenics officials say they are reviewing the EPA’s recently released air sample results.

“As the EPA highlighted in its call to discuss the results, there are other sources of ethylene oxide in the Willowbrook area unrelated to the Sterigenics facility,” the company said in a statement. “The range of results in the residential areas of Willowbrook are consistent with background levels of EO across the Chicago area. We acknowledge that there are several readings closer to the Willowbrook facility that are higher than background levels and we will be meeting soon with the U.S. EPA and IL EPA to discuss those readings.”

The company said that the EPA pointed out the levels of EO in the ambient air test results reflect “extremely low levels in the atmosphere … part per billion and part per trillion numbers and it doesn’t take very much of this material or any material to cause those kinds of levels in the air.”

In addition, Sterigenics said the EPA commented, “monitoring information about ethylene oxide in the Willowbrook area remains limited. It remains premature to draw conclusions about long-term health risks from the data.”

“Sterigenics is committed to the safety of our employees, the communities we operate in and the patients we serve,” the company said. “We continue to operate well within the limits of our permit and all applicable regulations.

“By complying with and going above and beyond what the regulations require, the Sterigenics Willowbrook facility safely uses EO and provides a vital service to patients in Illinois and across the country. Sterigenics remains committed to working with regulators, legislators and Illinois public officials to evolve regulations and continuously improve our operations in the ongoing interest of public safety.”

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