Environmental Protection Agency

Willowbrook's Sterigenics Stalemate Persists

Neighbors voiced their concerns about cancer risks mentioned in the environmental document.

A meeting over Sterigenics controversy in Willowbrook wrapped up Wednesday at the Marriott and people are very upset.

Andrea Thome moved her parents to the southwest suburbs after Hall of Famer husband Jim Thome settled his baseball career in Chicago.

But that’s where the fairytale part of their story stops.

“They both moved here in 2007 healthy, vibrant," Andrea Thome said. "Within seven years my mom died of liver disease."

"Then my dad got a brain tumor this past December,” she said.

The family lives in Burr Ridge, within a couple miles of Sterigenics.

Last month news broke that, according to a federal investigation, the company is emitting an invisible cancer-causing gas called ethylene oxide--and has been since the 80s.

“Eight out of 10 families on one block have had cancer in their family," Thome said. "Many with no family history. There aren’t any coincidences here."

The Thomes are joining thousands of others demanding answers.

A few dozen met with attorneys Wednesday to coordinate next steps.

A spokesperson for Sterigenics says it is operating up to Environmental Protection Agency standards and always has.

"We have always been committed to ensuring that the ethylene oxide ('EO') used to sterilize life-saving medical products at our Sterigenics Willowbrook facility does not present a health threat to the Willowbrook community by operating well within permitted levels," the company said in a statement. "Our air quality control equipment is state of the art and the recent voluntary equipment upgrade that reduces our emissions."

But confused, angry and fearful people in the southwestern suburbs want Sterigenics out of their community.

Sterigenics said in a statement that medical devices such as syringes and surgical procedure kits are sterilized at its Willowbrook facility. They noted that any disruption to the process of sterilizing the medical tools "could result in unacceptable and life-threatening delays."

You can view the 2014 National Air Toxics Assessment here. Just type in "Willowbrook, Illinois."

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