Willowbrook residents call for permanent closure of Sterigenics

Legislators and residents of Willowbrook were in Springfield Tuesday, demanding more action against Sterigenics and other companies which use ethylene oxide.

However, on Wednesday, Sterigenics will ask a federal judge to lift the order which shut down its Willowbrook facility. 

Willowbrook resident Sue Kamuda told an Illinois House committee Tuesday about her own battle with breast cancer, and the cancers she's heard about from neighbors and friends. 

“I met a man who told me his wife, his two daughters and he had breast cancer,” said Kamuda. 

Kamuda was one of the dozens of Willowbrook residents who traveled to Springfield to demand that the Sterigenics facility which was temporarily shut down by the state on Friday, be permanently closed. 

The shutdown order came after state health experts concluded that emissions of ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen, created unacceptable risks of cancer. Some legislators say any facility emitting ethylene oxide in the state should be closed.

“This health crisis has now evolved into an unmanageable situation, with tens of thousands of residents being exposed to direct harm by this cancer-causing agent,” said State Rep. Sam Yingling (D) of Grayslake.

Industry representatives told the committee that ethylene oxide exists at some level all over the Chicagoland area, and concerns among local residents and state regulators were overblown.

“There are a lot of sources of ethylene oxide, plant decay, cigarette smoke, vehicle exhaust, and cooking oils,” said Mark Biel, Chemistry Industry Council of Illinois. “These are known sources of ethylene oxide.”

Sterigenics has called the decision to shut down the Willowbrook plant, “indefensible."

They said the decision will place the lives of thousands of patients wo rely on the sterilization of medical products at the Willowbrook facility at risk.