Willowbrook facility accused of making people sick facing third lawsuit

CHICAGO --  A new lawsuit filed Thursday accused suburban company Sterigenics International of releasing toxic chemicals into the air.

The 26-count lawsuit included negligence and civil battery charges.

Some residents, like Sue Kamuda, are calling the company a public health hazard.

For 33 years, breast cancer survivor Kamuda has lived in Willowbrook. She lived less than half a mile from Sterigenics, a company that sterilizes medical instruments and devices.

In August, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a report that sparked outrage and protests. The report showed Sterigenics responsible for releasing a toxic chemical into the air called ethylene oxide. The emissions are three times higher than the EPA’s acceptable limits.

“I raised three kids in that house. I wasn't a big fan of AC,” Kamuda said. “I liked the windows open.”

Kamuda, among other Willowbrook residents, are suing the company.

There are three schools within a mile of Sterigenics building as well as a day care and 25,000 residents in that proximity who have questions and want action.

“There's outrage in the community,” said attorney Jeff Kroll. “This is now the 19th largest cancer cluster in the country. This is in the top 1 percent for incidents of cancer. and it's no coincidence. … When you're one of the highest in the country and all of this oxide is coming from one company that's pathetic and it has to stop.”

A Sterigenics spokesperson told WGN News the company had no comment on the lawsuit but says the company hired an independent third party to test the emissions. The results of those tests said the levels fall below the EPA's guidelines after upgrades to the facility in July.

The EPA has agreed to come in and do its own ambient air testing of the facility.