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Illinois Congressional Delegation Presses ATSDR for Updated Health Report for Willowbrook

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and U.S. Representatives Bill Foster (D-IL-11), Dan Lipinski (D-IL-03), Brad Schneider (D-IL-10), and Sean Casten (D-IL-06) today requested that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) conduct another site-specific Health Consultation for Willowbrook, Illinois, based on the most recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ethylene oxide (EtO) ambient air measurements from November 2018 – February 2019 at Sterigenics, Inc. Given concerning new data that revealed extremely high levels of EtO was being emitted from the facility, the members requested that an updated site-specific Health Consultation for Sterigenics be prioritized and conducted by ATSDR as soon as possible. The last time ATSDR did a health consultation report, it used U.S. EPA data from May 2018.

“Since that 2018 report, Sterigenics has installed pollution control equipment to reconnect a back vent that was responsible for additional EtO released to the atmosphere.  However, over the last few months, the U.S. EPA has taken new measurements which clearly indicate that Sterigenics has still been pumping elevated concentrations of EtO into the Willowbrook community following that change,” the members wrote. “Given this concerning new data, we request that an updated site-specific Health Consultation for Sterigenics be prioritized and conducted by ATSDR as soon as possible.”

Last month, Durbin, Duckworth, Foster, Lipinski, Schneider, and Casten pressed Willowbrook-based Sterigenics for answers regarding a CBS Chicago report where ex-employees of Sterigenics alleged rampant wrong-doing by facility supervisors, such as releasing EtO directly into the atmosphere without proper pollution control equipment, dumping ethylene glycol into drainage facilities, and manipulating warning alarms in the facility. 

Full text of the letter is available here and below:

 

March 4, 2019

 

Dear Director Breysse:

We write to request that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) conduct an updated site-specific Health Consultation for Willowbrook, Illinois using data available from federal, state, or local agencies, based on the most recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ethylene oxide (EtO) ambient air measurements from around the Sterigenics facility.  In this effort, we request that ATSDR work in collaboration with the U.S. EPA to perform or continue the necessary air measurements and modeling required for a full cancer risk exposure assessment, to guide specific actions to mitigate exposures to this community, and to make this analysis a priority as soon as the necessary information becomes available. 

In August 2018, ATSDR released a Letter Health Consultation entitled “Evaluation of Potential Health Impacts from Ethylene Oxide Emissions,” which relied on U.S. EPA data collection and modeling around the Sterigenics facility in Willowbrook.  Based on the concentrations of ambient EtO collected by the EPA from May 16 – 18, 2018, and the updated cancer risk value from the EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) “Evaluation of the Inhalation Carcinogenicity of Ethylene Oxide” assessment in late 2016, ATSDR made several recommendations, including that: (1) Sterigenics take immediate action to reduce EtO, (2) U.S. EPA work with Sterigenics to initiate long-term air monitoring, and (3) the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) investigate whether elevated cancers exist in the areas surrounding Sterigenics. 

Since that 2018 report, Sterigenics has installed pollution control equipment to reconnect a back vent that was responsible for additional EtO released to the atmosphere.  However, over the last few months, the U.S. EPA has taken new measurements which clearly indicate that Sterigenics has still been pumping elevated concentrations of EtO into the Willowbrook community following that change.  The most recent data that U.S. EPA released from early January 2019—measurements collected after the back vent has been reconnected to pollution control equipment—include much higher concentrations than were found during May 2018. 

Given this concerning new data, we request that an updated site-specific Health Consultation for Sterigenics be prioritized and conducted by ATSDR as soon as possible.  Conclusions and recommendations by ATSDR experts are critical components to addressing this public health threat in the Willowbrook community. 

Thank you for your attention to this serious matter.

 

Sincerely,