Sterigenics To Keep Willowbrook Plant Closed

Sep 30, 2019

After months of controversy over allegations of cancer-causing emissions, medical sterilization company Sterigenics says it will not reopen an Illinois plant.

Sterigenics explained wasn’t able to renew the lease on a building located in the Chicago suburb of Willowbrook in a statement to media released Monday. The company uses a gas known as ethylene oxide to sterilize medical equipment. It’s known to cause cancer, and a cluster of cancer diagnoses in the area prompted nearby residents to call for its closure.

Despite that pressure, Illinois’ Environmental Protection Agency had approved the plant’s reopening with significantly lower emissions via a consent order. But there were still lawmakers pushing to effectively ban the chemical.

Sterigenics pointed to “unfounded claims” and an “unstable legislative and regulatory landscape” among the reasons it’s pulling out.

In a statement Monday, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, who represents the area around the plant, said Sterigenics "got the message" that his constituents would not allow the plant to reopen. Meanwhile, Governor J.B. Pritzker applauded the move in his own statement, saying it demonstrated "that Illinoisans will come together to protect the health and wellbeing of all our residents."

It remains to be seen whether state lawmakers like Durkin will continue trying to ban ethylene oxide in Illinois. Several other companies also use the gas.