Durbin Statement On Rauner And Trump Administrations' Delay On Notifying Public About Sterigenics Risk

CHICAGO – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today released the following statement after the Chicago Tribune published a story that details how Governor Bruce Rauner’s Administration, along with the Trump Administration, chose to not inform the public of serious cancer risks associated with emissions from the Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook, Illinois, for at least eight months after it learned of the risks:

This is a downright disgrace. Once again, the Rauner and Trump Administrations prioritized public relations over a serious public health hazard. Now, the U.S. EPA and Illinois EPA must finally step up its monitoring of this facility and be fully transparent with the public about the information they have about Sterigenics. Additionally, we need more emissions testing at this plant - something I’ve asked the EPA for repeatedly - a timeline for the EPA to set new health-based standards, and a public meeting for Willowbrook residents.  Illinoisans deserve better than this.

An August report detailed higher than normal cancer risks in the area surrounding Sterigenics, a Willowbrook-based company that uses ethylene oxide to sterilize medical products and equipment. Ethylene oxide has been classified as a known carcinogen by the EPA and has been found to cause cancer.

Last week, Durbin sent a letter with Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Congressman Bill Foster (D-IL-11), to the U.S. EPA requesting federal assistance to help community groups in DuPage County understand the magnitude of the public health dangers they are facing, medical monitoring for community members who have been exposed to ethylene oxide, as well as immediate actions to assess and reduce ethylene oxide exposure across the country.

On October 10, Durbin and Duckworth had a call with EPA Acting Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, about Sterigenics where they continued to press the EPA for a time frame for ambient air monitoring, modeling, and revising the Clean Air Act standard.

On September 25, Durbin, Duckworth, and Foster requested the EPA and Sterigenics begin testing local air quality for harmful ethylene oxide emissions and make their results available to the general public – and that the company provide personal exposure tests to Willowbrook residents. The EPA notified the Members of Congress on September 27 that it had begun to test air quality from the Sterigenics plant for emissions of ethylene oxide, but still has not conducted ambient air testing for the surrounding area.