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Durbin, Duckworth, Foster, Lipinski, Schneider, Casten Statement on Sterigenics

Feb 7, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and U.S. Representatives Bill Foster (D-IL-11), Dan Lipinski (D-IL-03), Brad Schneider (D-IL-10), and Sean Casten (D-IL-06) today released the following statement regarding Willowbrook, Illinois-based Sterigenics, Inc.:

"The reporting from CBS Chicago, alleging Sterigenics directed employees to take extraordinary measures to cover-up releases of ethylene oxide directly into the atmosphere and to dump harmful ethylene glycol into drains that lead to the public sewer system, along with the release of data from U.S. EPA appearing to confirm that Sterigenics is indeed responsible for dangerously high emissions of ethylene oxide at its Willowbrook monitoring sites, are deeply troubling and call for immediate action.

After pleading with them for months, the U.S. EPA can no longer sit on its hands.  It clearly has a critical responsibility when it comes to monitoring air emissions and enforcing regulations.  The U.S. EPA is failing to meet that responsibility.  U.S. EPA must step up and take immediate action to protect the health of Illinois residents exposed to this carcinogen.  Immediately."

Last week, the delegation members met with Michael Petras, CEO of Sotera Health, parent company of Willowbrook, Illinois-based Sterigneics, Inc, and Sterigenics President Phil MacNabb, to discuss high carcinogenic ethylene oxide (EtO) emissions at the facility. The members pressed the company representatives on what they plan to do to ensure the safety and health of Illinois residents who are at-risk from high levels of EtO emitted from its plant, what long-term plans are in place for air emissions monitoring, and whether the company is considering alternatives to EtO for medical equipment sterilization.

In January, the lawmakers sent a letter to U.S. EPA asking how President Trump’s shutdown affected EPA’s monitoring operations at Sterigenics Inc. in Willowbrook, Illinois. The members also expressed concern about how the shutdown impacted the sharing of information to the neighborhoods near the facility so residents who are concerned about their health are promptly informed about any dangers. 

In November, Durbin, Duckworth, Foster, and Schneider met with EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler to discuss cancer risks caused by EtO emissions at the facilities in DuPage and Lake Counties.  The members urged Wheeler to take steps to increase air quality monitoring and update air modeling, and they pressed for answers about whether EPA followed proper protocols and requirements when it delayed telling Illinois residents about the dangerous emissions from the facilities. 

The delegation Members have repeatedly written letters to the EPA, EPA Office of the Inspector General (OIG), and Sterigenics asking for answers about high levels of EtO emissions, plans for air monitoring, and whether the EPA intentionally withheld critical health information from the public about carcinogenic air pollution from the facilities in DuPage County and Lake County