Lipinski Calls for New EtO Emissions Testing Method at Sterigenics

In light of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's recent testing showing significantly high levels of cancer-causing ethylene oxide (EtO) in the air in Willowbrook, Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3) is calling on Sterigenics to implement a new testing method to measure EtO coming from its facilities in the village.  Lipinski wants Sterigenics to work with the U.S. and Illinois EPA to conduct fenceline air quality monitoring to get a clearer picture of the pollution levels crossing their property boundary.  Recent EPA-supervised stack testing showed how much EtO is emitted from Sterigenics’ scrubber, but not how much potentially leaks out through windows, doors, its heating and air conditioning system, and other sources.

“Yesterday, I visited Sterigenics’ main Willowbrook facility to see for myself the building and how the plant operates, as well as where the EPA has conducted ambient air testing,” Rep. Lipinski said.  “Following up on this visit and in consultation with outside scientists, today I am calling on Sterigenics to begin – as soon as possible – testing for EtO around the perimeter of its two buildings in Willowbrook.  This testing should be done in conjunction with the EPA and in a transparent manner that can be scientifically verified by an independent third party.  I continue to stand by my statement that Sterigenics should be shut down unless we can be assured that it is not a public health threat.”

The EPA released another round of air sample results yesterday for EtO around the two Sterigenics facilities.  The first set of results released on December 7th showed an extremely high concentration of EtO on November 19th at the two testing sites closest to the plant.  The new results for testing conducted on November 23rd differ from the previous results, but only raise more questions and cannot be said to demonstrate that Sterigenics is not a public health threat.

This past summer, the EPA reported disturbingly high cancer risk in communities across the country that are home to commercial sterilization facilities – including Sterigenics – that emit EtO, which is a gas used to sterilize medical equipment and produce other chemicals.  The EPA’s estimate of EtO’s cancer risk had been recently updated after 30 years and the risk is now believed to be at least 30 times higher than previously thought.  This means the excess cancer risk around Sterigenics is 300 cancer cases per million people, well above the level of 100 cases per million that the EPA uses as a threshold to take action.

In September, Congressman Lipinski sent a letter to the EPA demanding that the Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook be shut down unless air testing can demonstrate that current emissions are not a health threat.  He followed that up with legislation introduced last month directing the agency’s administrator to finally update its emissions regulations for EtO.

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