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Illinois House committees hold hearing concerning Sterigenics toxic emissions

CHICAGO (October 29, 2018) – Residents who live near the Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook sounded off at a hearing Friday held by the Illinois House of Representatives Environment and Energy committees.

The hearing was held amid a report by the Chicago Tribune, saying Governor Rauner’s administration knew for months that toxic air pollution from the Sterigenics plant is likely responsible for some of the highest cancer risks in the nation.

According to the report, the governor’s office and the Rauner-led Illinois Environmental Protection Agency kept the politically explosive information from the public for eight months, then initially downplayed the dangers posed by a company owned in part by the incumbent Republican’s former private equity firm.

Records obtained by the Tribune show the Rauner administration worked behind the scenes with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency between December and August on a more intensive investigation of Sterigenics and discussed potential solutions to the company’s pollution problems.

READ MORE | Trump and Rauner administrations knew about Sterigenics cancer risks months before telling public

No action was taken at Friday’s hearing. But residents and local officials spoke emotionally about their concerns and one by one said Sterigenics should not be allowed to continue operating near densely populated communities.

One resident who lives a few blocks from the plant in southeast DuPage County told state lawmakers how her oldest daughter fell ill with mysterious coughing fits and vomiting and had to be rushed to the hospital when “she was struggling to breathe and turned purple.” She also said she has suffered heart palpitations, trouble breathing and a ringing in her ears herself.

“Every single symptom my family and I have experienced has been associated with ethylene oxide,” she said. “I live with constant fear .”

Willowbrook Mayor Frank Trilla, who noted the U.S. EPA informed him about the cancer risk report an hour before it was posted online in late August, described the news “like an information dirty bomb that was dropped on his desk.”

“Either the product is safe to breathe and live in, or it’s not. If it is, establish the level that is safe. If it’s not, shut them down,” the mayor said during the hearing.

In August 2018, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry concluded that ethylene oxide concentrations in the air pose an elevated risk for residents near the Sterigenics facility. Read more about the risks of ethylene oxide exposure, here.

A Sterigenics official said the agency’s report was released without proper context and had exposed Willowbrook residents to inaccurate information. The company stated that independent tests show emissions are below permitted levels.

The attorney general is seeking to close Sterigenics but does not have that authority yet.

Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., has filed multiple lawsuits against Sterigenics International and its parent company, GTCR LLC, for civil battery, negligence and public nuisance (among other allegations) for knowingly emitting the cancer-causing chemical, ethylene oxide. The lawsuits, which were filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, were filed on behalf of plaintiffs who have suffered from lymphoma, breast cancer, and leukemia after living in close proximity to the plant for many years. The firm’s clients are represented by attorneys Patrick A. Salvi, Patrick A. Salvi II, Aaron D. Boeder, Andrew J. Burkavage, Heidi L. Wickstrom, and John A. Mennie.

READ MORE | Sterigenics FAQs

If you believe you or a loved one has suffered from health issues due to exposure to ethylene oxide, contact our office today to speak to a member of our Sterigenics legal team about your legal rights.

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