Sterigenics to close Willowbrook facility amidst cancer controversy

Data pix.

WILLOWBROOK, Ill. — The controversial Sterigenics company announced Monday that it is leaving Willowbrook.

The company was using ethylene oxide to sterilize medical equipment. The state shut down the Willowbrook facility in February after residents blamed the toxic gas for causing cancer.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency did approve Sterigenics' reopening as long as equipment was installed to reduce emissions.

Sterigenics said despite the EPA's approval, the company could not reach an agreement to renew a lease on the facility.

Sterigenics also said it will not pursue reopening a second Willowbrook location.

"Sterigenics got the message that we were never going to let them reopen their doors and poison our communities again," said Illinois Rep. Jim Durkin.

"We are thrilled and looking forward to life after Sterigenics," said Willowbrook Mayor Frank Trilla.

Neighbors in the area are also relieved the company is leaving.

"We’re the first domino to fall, and that industry, mark our words, will fall,” a resident said.

While Sterigenics finalizes plans to close the plant down, there are dozens of lawsuits filed by residents moving through the court system.

Two companies still using ethylene oxide, one in Waukegan and the other in Gurnee, are being closely monitored.

Below is the full release from the company:

"Sterigenics appreciates that the State of Illinois has clearly acknowledged the company’s consistent record of regulatory compliance as well as the safety of the new controls we agreed to implement, and we made every effort to reach a constructive resolution. Unfortunately, inaccurate and unfounded claims regarding Sterigenics and the unstable legislative and regulatory landscape in Illinois have created an environment in which it is not prudent to maintain these critical sterilization operations in Willowbrook.

"Hospitals and patients around the United States and the world depend on Sterigenics for vital, sterilized medical products, and we cannot provide them with the certainty they require while operating safely in a state that will suspend operations of a business despite the company’s compliance with applicable rules and regulations. We are actively taking steps to ensure customer and patient needs continue to be met by our other facilities and are working with our employees throughout this transition. Sterigenics will continue to lead the way in industry safety by voluntarily implementing new controls at our other sterilization facilities. These controls will set a new standard for EO emissions and reaffirm our longstanding commitment to go beyond regulatory requirements.

"Sterigenics sterilizes and decontaminates products that protect over one million patients and consumers every day. Sterigenics understands and takes seriously our responsibility to sterilize these vital healthcare products while protecting employees and the communities in which we operate. We are proud to be one of several companies that safely sterilizes critical and lifesaving medical products. We continue to work with communities and regulators to establish the strongest possible control environment across our network of EO sterilization facilities and challenge our industry peers to join us in upgrading each of the more than 100 EO sterilization facilities in operation across the country."

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