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WILLOWBROOK, Ill. — New data from the EPA released Tuesday reveals higher levels of the cancer-causing agent ethylene oxide near Sterigenics’ facility in suburban Willowbrook than earlier studies, prompting calls for its closure from officials and residents who feel the plant is responsible for a litany of medical problems in the community.

A protest outside Gower West School Tuesday is the latest involving residents of this community against Sterigenics, which has been operating in the area since 1984. These folks say the data is irrefutable: the levels of emissions is to a point that people have been getting sick – and some dying – for years.

Sterigenics produces ethylene oxide, which is odorless and is used to make other chemicals like anti-freeze, adhesives, detergents, pesticides and sterilizers for medical equipment.

Residents say the time for talk has long since passed, and that the plant needs to be shut down immediately, and Sterigenics needs to leave the community and face possible civil and criminal consequences.

“All of us have received a death sentence from Sterigenics,” protester Meringa Zymancius said. “Enough is enough.”

Sterigenics put out a statement, which reads in part:

“monitoring information about ethylene oxide in the Willowbrook area remains limited. It remains premature to draw conclusions about long-term health risks from the data.”

State and Federal officials are also now calling for the facility to be shut down.

In a statement, Rep. Dan Lipinski (D- IL 3rd District) called for the EPA to “immediately shut the facility down” after the latest study.

“Almost all of the measurements, taken in late November and early December, are over the EPA action threshold for cancer risk, and the highest number is 350 times the limit,” the statement said.

Chart of levels of ethylene oxide found in EPA study, courtesy Rep. Dan Lipinski


Illinois Senator John F. Curran (R-Downers Grove) also called for the facility to be closed.

“Today’s EPA results regarding the air quality around Sterigenics demonstrate two things: that the air around this facility is not safe, and that the safeguards put in place by Sterigenics are failing to adequately address these critical issues,” Curran said in the statement.

In a joint statement, Attorney General Kwame Raul and DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said residents, “should not have to endure this exposure to a known human carcinogen.”

“We will exercise all available legal authority to protect the community from this exposure,” they said in the statement.

Senator Dick Durbin is also in favor of shutting down the plant, weighing in on Twitter Tuesday after the study was released: “As I’ve said for months, the EPA can no longer sit on its hands. It must take strong steps to protect the health of Illinois residents exposed to this carcinogen. Immediately.”