Cancer Rate Higher Near Willowbrook Sterigenics Plant, Study Says

"It’s pretty scary you know, especially the high incident rates in women and children," one neighbor said

The results of a recent study are not surprising to Willowbrook’s mayor and many residents fighting to make sure Sterigenics stays shut down for good.

Air quality testing equipment stood outside the suburban Sterigenics facility Friday. It’s been six weeks since the plant was open for business.

Steve Leopoldo lives nearby.

"It’s terrifying," he said. "I fear for my children my wife, my family."

A study released by the Illinois Department of Public Health is reinforcing residents’ concerns. It shows that the cancer rates are in fact higher in people living near the shuttered sterilization facility that for 34 years, put the known carcinogen, ethleyene oxide, into the air.

Sri Rao also lives near the facility.

"It’s pretty scary you know, especially the high incident rates in women and children," Rao said.

According to the state’s study, more cases of breast cancer and Hodgkin's lymphoma were found in women living near Sterigenics. Prostate, pancreatic and ovarian cancers are also higher here than in other parts of the county. The study also finds more reports of lymphoma in children.

"We live here and we have to fight for our community," Leopoldo said.

Sterigenics denies having any connection to cancer.

"While the heightened incidence rates for certain types of cancers in Willowbrook warrant closer study, it is unreasonable to use the findings as evidence of any link between ethlyene oxide, Sterigenics and the Willowbrook area," it said in a statement.

But who's to blame isn't the most pressing problem, Leopoldo said.

"Can I say it's directly to them? No. But I can say a lot of people on my block have cancer," he said.

People here tell NBC 5 the fight is nowhere near finished.

They’re working with lawmakers in Springfield to prevent Sterigenics from reopening--and any other companies like it that produce known cancer-causing gases.

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