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Stop Sterigenics furious over Friday night IEPA news dump

Monday, Sep 23, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Background is here. From a press release…

Last Friday at 5pm, the Illinois EPA released several decisions paving the way for Sterigenics to resume emitting cancer-causing ethylene oxide into southeast DuPage and southwest Cook Counties.

It has been a tortured and tumultuous year for Willowbrook and area residents who have been fighting to prohibit further emissions into their community. In fact, in the heat of the 2018 election season, nearly a year ago to the day, Christian Mitchell, now Deputy Governor, launched a tweet as he campaigned for then-Candidate Pritzker, criticizing Governor Bruce Rauner for allowing Sterigenics to continue “pouring cancer causing pollutants into the air.” Mr. Mitchell requested at that time that members of the community affected by Sterigenics join him outside the Thompson Center for a press conference denouncing the corporate polluter and then-Gov. Rauner’s failure to act.

Now as Deputy Governor, Christian Mitchell oversees the Illinois EPA. Yet, this past Friday, Sterigenics was granted a construction permit by the IEPA which puts them on a clear path to reopening.

Citizen groups have led the charge since learning about this toxic chemical and its links to the cancer clusters in their area. Citizens continue to fight and urge the administration to leave the politics out of this issue.

After legislation passed last session, dubbed the Matt Haller Act after a local young father who died from stomach cancer believed to be caused by Sterigenics, that legislation failed to protect the local citizens (evinced by the current posture of the permit and the recent settlement reached between Sterigenics and the AG and the DuPage County State’s Attorney). For months, the citizens of the affected areas have been battered around like a political ping pong ball. Between Gov. Pritzker, Deputy Governor Christian Mitchell and local representatives including House Minority Leader Jim Durkin and State Senator John Curran, there have been countless press releases, public statements, and even letters back and forth obtained through FOIA. These communities deserve better than the current climate.

Today, residents from Cook, DuPage, and Lake Counties join together with environmental and social justice organizations and challenge Governor Pritzker to stand by his commitment to pass the strictest legislation on ethylene oxide. Their bill, HB3888, filed by Representative Rita Mayfield of Waukegan and supported by a broad bi-partisan coalition of legislators, calls for the phase out of emissions for sterilization plants and hospitals, and places caps on other forms of emissions in densely populated areas and near schools.

Additionally, HB3885, filed by Leader Durkin, provides home rule municipalities with the abillity to ban ethylene oxide within their boundaries. As has been quipped, if a town can ban smoking or adult entertainment venues, it only seems fair to give towns the ability to ban a substance that their constituents see as a killer.

“Protection from toxic, cancer causing emissions is a human right. It is a protection that every resident of Illinois deserves. We call upon our leadership in the administration to pass HB3888 and HB3885 and stand with us in declaring that the health and safety of all comes first,” said Gabriela Tejeda-Rios, a member of Stop Sterigenics.

The legislation is expected to be heard during Veto session this October. The community groups plan to be in Springfield during the process to ensure their voices are heard, even late on a Friday night.

As I told subscribers this morning, the tactic worked. Nobody covered the IEPA permit decision.

* Related…

* Suburban lawmakers back bill to limit use of cancer-causing gas


  1. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Sep 23, 19 @ 2:06 pm:

    Who says the old school ways don’t work? Traditional news dump in this twitterific world.

    To the Post,

    Leader Durkin and the legislators seem to have a coalition “with reason” now, as actual legislation that seemingly could be a deterrent is out there.

    What’s very novice is that on the one hand these folks are blaming the governor and governors own and the IEPA is an agency, the signature of this governor is needed for all these other bills. It’s like Durkin and his first bill. Blaming folks for something flawed, you need those yelling at you to be on your side to allegedly fix it. We’ve seen Durkin really, politically, turn this around, and look like a leader on a consensus (to those in Willowbrook and elsewhere).

    Now the real discussion must begin, with lots many folks won’t like to hear. There no simple solution, but the main part of the exercise is to get “everyone vs. Sterigenics“, instead of this being a ping pong political mess.

    The discussions to the bills will highlight not only the dangers folks throughout Illinois are facing, and some legislative problems that all-out bans brings to safety and how it will effect the medical industry.

    In the end, there will be no great answer, and Sterigenics is far from an honest broker looking to be good for their neighbors.

  2. - Life Long R - Monday, Sep 23, 19 @ 2:09 pm:

    Wow Deputy Governor Mitchell saying one thing on the campaign trail then doing something different while being in power,how unusual.

  3. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Sep 23, 19 @ 2:13 pm:

    It would be beyond disgraceful if our elected representatives don’t do their level best to protect people from deadly emissions. This is cancer we’re talking about, horrible sickness and death. This is so beyond any partisanship.

    There was supposed to be a demonstration but it was called off and instead there’s to be mailing postcards or writing to politicians for a campaign to pass bills that were recently filed. This should get done in the veto session.

  4. - Responsa - Monday, Sep 23, 19 @ 2:21 pm:

    Christian Miller then. Christian Miller now. That says it all. People in politics don’t always tell the truth, do they?

  5. - Naperthrill - Monday, Sep 23, 19 @ 2:25 pm:

    5pm Friday was the due date, so… Not sure how that can be considered shady. Disappointing how little in the way of facts are now part of this EO debate.

    EO is not the evil monster some activists and politicians want you to believe. These companies have always restricted their emissions to what was deemed scientifically safe and are now going to have controls in that make emissions and risk nonexistent, compared to normal cancer risks we deem acceptable. Smoking, exhaust and your own body produce EO. This thing has taken on a life of it’s own, no longer grounded in science.

  6. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Sep 23, 19 @ 2:27 pm:

    ===EO is not the evil monster some activists and politicians want you to believe.===

    Tell that to the victims.


  7. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Sep 23, 19 @ 2:29 pm:

    ===Smoking, exhaust and your own body produce EO. ===

    Does all that science show it as a cancer producing element?

  8. - JB13 - Monday, Sep 23, 19 @ 2:31 pm:

    Rhetoric on the campaign trail often runs afoul of law and constitutions.
    “Take action, and pay no heed to the constitution and laws!” is only a rallying cry for those who believe they will always wield the strong arm of the state.

  9. - MarginofEra - Monday, Sep 23, 19 @ 2:41 pm:

    Naperthrill — Speaking of grounding in science, please point to the study showing EO comes from vehicle exhaust?

    State banned indoor smoking so people aren’t subject to secondhand smoke precisely because its not right to subject workers and the public to the toxic chemicals in secondhand smoke, so now you want people to breathe a potent and known carcinogen against their will?

    Breathing in some ethylene and having it oxidize is the same to you as breathing EtO constantly in these communities?

  10. - P’ - Monday, Sep 23, 19 @ 2:41 pm:

    Guys Christian is really busy right now with law school.

  11. - Bobby Beagle - Monday, Sep 23, 19 @ 2:48 pm:

    Two aspects to this issue: a lack of strong environmental regulations in Illinois to begin with and an agency that is gutted, demoralized, and may be effectively captured by industry.

    They are incapable of enforcing the permits they issue, keeping reasonable timelines for their actions, and even communiting with the public reasonably. The scandals and outrage will continue until the agency is reformed.

    It may be true that they followed the letter of the law with this permit, but any discretion they have is given to industry and protecting agency (rather than the public) 100% of the time.

  12. - Jibba - Monday, Sep 23, 19 @ 2:52 pm:

    Lots of facilities pour cancer causing substances into the air and water. How? They get IEPA permits, which limit the exposures to “acceptable” levels. This one just happens to have a white population at risk, so is it supposed to get harsher treatment?

  13. - The Jungle - Monday, Sep 23, 19 @ 3:04 pm:

    I agree with you Bobby Beagle. Filled out my witness slip today and yes, many facilities emit cancer causing substances into our air and water. It is time to put people over profits. Just because it is law does not make it just.

  14. - Anon but Social Knows me - Monday, Sep 23, 19 @ 3:23 pm:

    So where will we get sterilization of medical devices that cannot be heated, gamma flooded, boiled, etc? You know - silly things like heart valves, stents and the like? Ban it all the public cries out. But when there is only one place in China that can offer these products at some point in the future, what will the outcry be then?

  15. - Bobbly Beagle - Monday, Sep 23, 19 @ 3:33 pm:

    So where will we get sterilization of medical devices that cannot be heated, gamma flooded, boiled, etc?

    Probably from nearby states like Indiana in facilities which are not in the middle of densely populated residential areas. As an Illinoisian I want strong regulations that protect public health. It seems like that’s what a lot of Illinois residents want. Are we not entitled to regulate our environment as we see fit as residents of this state?

    It’s also possible alternative methods would be developed following regulatory changes. Are you suggesting EtO is the one and only solution to sterilization challenges? I doubt it, it’s just the cheap, quick and dirty method that results in large profits for companies while likely harming those exposed to it.

  16. - Naperthrill - Monday, Sep 23, 19 @ 3:41 pm:


    The CDC and EPA

  17. - Anon but Social Knows me - Monday, Sep 23, 19 @ 3:53 pm:

    @Bobbly Beagle … NIMBY is the issue. At some point, most will say not in my back yard. And hence, it will go to other countries where their “illinoisans” don’t get a say. As for possible other alternatives - even per the experts (not to mention the website that is against EtO) some things just cannot be sterilized in any other way. Here’s a link

  18. - Hamlet's Ghost - Monday, Sep 23, 19 @ 4:24 pm:

    == So where will we get sterilization of medical devices that cannot be heated, gamma flooded, boiled, etc? ==

    Per HB3888, filed by Representative Rita Mayfield, the chemical can be used at locations sufficiently far away from populated areas.

    Insofar as the Republican States Attorney and the Democratic Attorney General and the Judge seem to agree that Sterigenics has complied with the most strict law in the nation the best path forward is to deliberate bills such as HB 3888.

  19. - Bobby Beagle - Monday, Sep 23, 19 @ 4:26 pm:

    Before I waste any more time with this document, could you please direct us all to the specific section which claims “some things just cannot be sterilized in any other way”, including that innovations or new methods are impossible to develop to replace EtO use?

    The part that I’ve read so far actually supports my point nearly verbatim.

    “One of the challenges with shifting away from ethylene oxide has been in sterilization of products with long,small lumens. However, as demonstrated in the shift in sterilization methods used in hospitals, industry innovation and advancement can allow for safer sterilization alternatives to take hold as the dangers of ethylene oxide sterilization are recognized.”

    As far as NIMBY is concerned: We don’t control what China does, but we sure can work to control what happens in our backyard. Are you seriously arguing that because we can’t control everything that happens in the world we should just give up on trying to exert control things we can have an impact on?

  20. - Jibba - Monday, Sep 23, 19 @ 4:26 pm:

    ==can be used at locations sufficiently far away from populated areas.===

    See NIMBY, definition. Those UNpopulated places have residents that will be exposed. Does the math work out to be moral for you?

  21. - Skeptical - Monday, Sep 23, 19 @ 4:28 pm:

    Oswego Willy, The last time I commented about the situation in Willowbrok and voiced some skepticism, you asked me if I remembered the cancer cluster around the area. To be honest, I really didn’t look at the cancer study. But since then I did.

    This is what I found out: Willowbrook is 23% older than the state of Illinois. Willowbrook’s median age is 45.7 years old.

    In the IDPH study on page 29, 44.7% of Willowbrook’s population is over the age of 50. The state referent’s population over the age of 50 is 29.2% The IDPH doesn’t appear to account for this age disparity in the Expected Cancer rate which is really odd.

    We all know that one of the biggest risk factors for some cancers is being over the age of 50. Can this age disparity account for the reason that Willowbrook has 10% higher rate of breast cancer than the state referent?

    Also since the question of car exhaust came up, this is also in the IDPH Study “The Willowbrook community is close to interstate highways and motor vehicle fuel exhaust is a known source of EtO.”

  22. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Sep 23, 19 @ 4:41 pm:

    - Skeptical -

    So… “because they’re old” is the response?

    Hmm. Chicago Tribune;

    ===Released Friday by the Illinois Department of Public Health

    The health department began taking a closer look at the area last summer after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated the risk of cancer in one census tract near Sterigenics is more than nine times higher than the national average, based largely on the dangers of ethylene oxide, a gas the company used in Willowbrook for more than three decades to fumigate medical equipment, pharmaceutical drugs, spices and food.===

    We still goin’ with that age thingy?

  23. - Skeptical - Monday, Sep 23, 19 @ 6:57 pm:

    Oswego Willy, the census tract assessment is based on the IRIS assessment which has been found to be seriously flawed by 3 EPA advisory boards and the Texas Environmental Counsel. That was not based on actual cancer cases.

    The only actual cancer report with real cancer numbers came from the IDPH report. And yes. Age and being over 50 is one of the highest risk factors for developing cancer. If Willowbrook has 44% of its population in a high risk category and the state referent only has 29.2% that is a big disparity and should be reviewed. The IDPH said it is conducting a more thorough review so I hope that they will be more transparent with this.

  24. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Sep 23, 19 @ 7:13 pm:

    ===the census tract assessment is based on the IRIS assessment which has been found to be seriously flawed===

    Take that up with the Tribune. That’s NINE times higher.

    Tell that to the victims.

    You also can’t say IDPH is correct and incorrect, lol

    “I like this data, but this is wrong”

    Sterigenics is a bad actor, minimum, and possibly hurting the folks living there, purposely, at the other end, and gleefully sending out press releases touting that they’re “back in business” while ignoring their possible culpability.

    Sterigenics has no regard for the victims, and by jumping the press release, Sterigenics is truly about possibly hurting more folks as quickly as they can, under the guise of full compliance, without working in concert with the SA or AG, but about the PR they need to help stay open.

    ===The IDPH said it is conducting a more thorough review so I hope that they will be more transparent with this.===

    How about they stay closed until we figure that out?

    Is it about money or people?

  25. - Thomas Paine - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 8:57 am:

    “Cancer rate is nine times higher because they are nine times older” ought to be known as The Methuselah Defense for the rest of time.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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