Sterigenics denies violating regulations
Sterigenics officials insist the company continues to “operate well within the limits of our permit and all applicable regulations” at its Willowbrook facility.
“By complying with and going above and beyond what the regulations require, the Sterigenics Willowbrook facility safely uses EO (ethylene oxide) and provides a vital service to patients in Illinois and across the country,” the company added in a statement.
Company officials felt compelled to speak up after federal tests recently concluded that it is still dispersing levels of the cancer-causing gas ethylene oxide into the air around its west suburban facility at levels higher than those detected before pollution-control equipment was installed in 2018.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the Environmental Protection Agency first began monitoring Sterigenics in late 2017 after discovering the cancer risks in one census tract in the area of the plant were nearly 10 times greater than the national average.
More recently, levels crept as high as four times higher than regular exposure levels of 2.1 micrograms of ethylene oxide per cubic meter of air. At those levels, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry reports at least six cases of cancer for every 1,000 people exposed would not be out of the realm of possibility.
“Sterigenics is reviewing the U.S. EPA’s recently released air sample results,” the company added in the statement. “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 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.”
Based in Oak Brook, Sterigenics is co-owned by former Gov. Bruce Rauner. The company specializes in the use of ethylene oxide to sterilize medical instruments, pharmaceutical drugs, spices and food.
The company has vowed to continue working with regulators, legislators and Illinois public officials in order to improve public safety, while Environmental Protection Agency officials have indicated it is still in the fact-finding process and not ready to take any action against the company.
“Sterigenics is committed to the safety of our employees, the communities we operate in and the patients we serve,” the company added in the statement. “We continue to operate well within the limits of our permit and all applicable regulations.”