LAKE COUNTY, Ill. -- According to the EPA, two chemical plants in Lake County are emitting a toxic air pollution. Tens of thousands of people living in the area could be in danger of developing cancer.
The “national air toxics assessment” is the EPA’s latest estimate of cancer risks. It showed in some spots in Lake County, cancer risks are more than five times higher than the national average.
That’s because two chemical plants emit large quantities of ethylene oxide gas, a cancer causing chemical, the same substance coming from the Sterigenics facility in west suburban Willowbrook, a subject of recent protest and controversy.
Vantage Specialty Chemicals in Gurnee manufactures chemicals to sterilize food and other personal care products. According to the EPA, the facility poses a heightened cancer risk.
Medline in Waukegan is a chemical facility that sterilizes medical equipment and emits a toxic chemical into the air.
A Medline executive said in a statement, “Without the use of EO sterilization, virtually all sterile procedure packs nationwide would rapidly become unavailable. Operating rooms across Illinois and the country would be severely impacted, limiting access to supplies necessary for lifesaving procedures, creating a serious public health risk."
According to an analysis by the Chicago Tribune, Vantage could pose an even greater risk than Medline and Sterigenics.
The federal and state EPA offices said they're collecting and reviewing information about Medline and Vantage.
"Illinois EPA, along with U.S. EPA, has already been in discussions with sources identified ... to ensure our information on their processes accurately reflects operations at these facilities," the state agency said in a statement. "We are also working with U.S. EPA to determine if any additional steps should be taken regarding these facilities."