“The decision by Sterigenics to shut down their Willowbrook plant shows what can happen when public officials on all levels work together along with concerned citizens to protect the health and safety of our communities," said Congressman Lipinski. “This fight has been going on for more than a year and has taken a tremendous amount of work by scores of people, but it was worth it to protect families from further exposure to this dangerous, cancer-causing agent. Although this particular fight is over, I will continue to press for a strong federal ethylene oxide standard to protect the health and safety of those who live near EtO-emitting facilities around the country.”


On September 30, 2019, Sterigenics announced it was permanently closing its Willowbrook commercial sterilization facility, bringing an end to a battle to protect community health that had been going on for more than a year. In the end, community activism combined with regulatory action and pressure from Congressman Lipinski and other federal, state and local officials, forced Sterigenics to leave Willowbrook -- a major victory for the health and safety of families in surrounding communities. 

In 2016, the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) found that the cancer risk caused by exposure to EtO, a gas Sterigenics uses to sterilize medical equipment, was 30 times higher than the agency’s previous estimate in 1985. As a result, the USEPA last year released an updated version of the National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) based on this new data. NATA maps cancer risk around the country based on air concentrations of 180 pollutants, including EtO. The 2018 National Air Toxics Assessment resulted in a significantly higher estimated cancer risk around the Sterigenics facility in Willowbrook and a higher estimated risk around the Elé Corporation facility in McCook. Since this assessment was released, Congressman Lipinski was in regular communication with federal and state agencies and both companies to take quick and decisive action to protect public health.

Among other actions, Congressman Lipinski introduced the Clean up EtO Act to force the USEPA to follow its charter under the Clean Air Act and review and revise EtO emissions standards. Congressman Lipininski also sent a letter with his colleagues in the Illinois delegation to the USEPA's acting administrator calling on the agency to extend its air monitoring around Sterigenics and commission a study on the background levels of EtO across the nation.

In early February, Congressman Lipinski led a bipartisan group of state and local officials, along with local residents, to the USEPA Region 5 headquarters calling for Sterigenics to be shut down. A few days later, on Feb. 13, the State of Illinois and the ILEPA issued a seal order forcing Sterigenics to shutter its EtO operations. 

Sterigenics sued to reopen. A case was pending in DuPage County Court, but Sterigenics instead decided on September 30, 2019 to end operations in Willowbrook permanently. Congressman Lipinski will continue to press the USEPA for a strong federal ethylene oxide standard to protect the health and safety of those who live near EtO-emitting plants that use this dangerous chemical.


Actions Congressman Lipinski Has Taken: