Residents file lawsuit against suburban plant emitting carcinogen

Hundreds of concerned people in the southwest suburbs are stepping up pressure on a company they claim has spread a toxic chemical linked to a cluster of cancer patients.

A new lawsuit has been filed, suing the company for negligence.

Residents have been living next to Sterigenics International in Willowbrook not knowing they were emitting a carcinogen into the air for decades, and the company is not responding.

Susan Kamuda is one of many suing Sterigenics International for civil battery, negligence and public nuisance. She’s one of three clients for Jeff Kroll of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard law firm.

“One of the questions people are asking at meetings is the EPA at fault is Willowbrook at fault and one of the things we will learn is what did they know and when did they know it?” Kroll said.

Sterigenics International sterilizes medical equipment and part of that process spits an odorless toxin -- Ethylene Oxide -- into the air.

Two years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency reclassified ethylene oxide as being more harmful to humans than previously thought and deemed it a known "carcinogen."

“This is now the 19th largest cancer cluster in the country,” Kroll said.

Air samples tested by the EPA showed the Willowbrook facility posts a cancer risk that is 64 times higher than the acceptable limit.

Since the news broke in August, residents are connecting health issues like leukemia, breast and bone cancer to the release of the toxic chemical -- including Kamuda, who lives three blocks from Sterigenics and was diagnosed with breast cancer ten years ago.

“They've upset our community and they could've been the cause of my cancer and we don't know what's going to come next,” Kamuda said.

On Thursday, the EPA approved more air quality testing in the area and plans to create a public website to keep the public informed.