A man who grew up in Willowbrook near medical sterilization service provider, Sterigenics, has filed a lawsuit against the company following a federal report that found Sterigenics released cancer-causing chemicals into the air.
Ryan Feeney, 26, said he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2010 during his senior year of high school.
“I endured unimaginable pain and suffering, mental anguish, and of course, the scary reality of costly medical bills, lost wages, and overall loss of what was my normal life,” Feeney told reporters at a press conference.
Feeney said he lived in close proximity of the Sterigenics facility for 22 years and attended Hinsdale South High School, which is within a one mile radius of Sterigenics. He said he also worked near the facility.
Government officials said the emissions of ethylene oxide from the facility do not pose an immediate threat. But community outrage is growing and attorneys said they anticipate many more lawsuits to be filed against the company.
“We’re talking to entire families who have cancer in Willowbrook,” said attorney Antonio Romanucci.
The lawsuit alleges that Sterigenics is the cause of the Willowbrook census tract having the highest cancer risk in Illinois and the 19th highest in the United States, according to EPA data.
A Sterigenics spokesperson said the company does not comment on pending litigation. Still, the company referred NBC 5 to an online statement that said the Willowbrook facility achieves and exceeds all compliance requirements set by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Critics want the plant shut down.
“There is no basis for ethylene oxide to be emitted into the air of the community any longer,” Romannuci said.
Feeney said he is through remission, but he deals with the effects of his cancer every day.
“Nobody should have to suffer,” Feeney said. “There's just no one else in the community that deserves to go through what I went through.”
Willowbrook mayor Frank Trilla told NBC 5 earlier this month that he planned to ask Illinois public health officials to start a cancer study for the area.