October 26, 2018

Duckworth: The Chemical and Ethical Clouds Surrounding Sterigenics Continue to Grow Darker


[CHICAGO, IL] – With a new Chicago Tribune report exposing the multiple ways both the Rauner and Trump administrations failed to protect Illinoisans from toxic chemical exposure while intentionally and needlessly delaying the public disclosure of known cancer risks, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, issued the following statement:

“Each day, it seems that the chemical and ethical clouds surrounding Sterigenics continue to grow darker, and in today’s investigation showing that both the Trump and Rauner administrations sought to hide data that could save lives in and around Willowbrook is the most troubling we’ve seen yet. In light of similar behavior regarding the continuing Legionnaires’ disease crisis that has taken the lives of at least 14 of our state’s heroes at Illinois Veterans Home Quincy, it’s also becoming more and more apparent that the Rauner administration habitually puts public relations above the health and well-being of the people of Illinois. It’s unacceptable and it’s indefensible. Our constituents deserve more, and those still at risk in DuPage County deserve action.”

An August report published by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Control Registry (ATSDR), an arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), detailed higher than normal cancer risk in the area surrounding Sterigenics, which uses ethylene oxide to sterilize medical products and equipment. Ethylene oxide has been classified as a known carcinogen by the EPA and has been found to cause cancer.

On September 25th, Duckworth, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Congressman Bill Foster (D-IL-11), requested the EPA and Sterigenics begin testing local air quality for harmful ethylene oxide emissions and make their results available to the general public – and that the company provide personal exposure tests to Willowbrook residents. The EPA notified the Members of Congress on September 27th that they had begun to test air quality near Sterigenics.

On October 10th, Durbin and Duckworth had a call with EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler about Sterigenics, where they pushed for a time frame for ambient air monitoring and revising the Clean Air Act standard. On October 12th, the Members also asked the EPA to fund DuPage County public health efforts and to assess ethylene oxide exposure nationwide.