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Illinois EPA Calls On Attorney General to Shut Down Sterigenics Willowbrook Plant

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Sterigenics' Willowbrook plant, at 7825 S. Quincy Street, Willowbrook IL

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is asking the Attorney General’s office to temporarily shut down a Chicago-area chemical plant. The agency says that plant is releasing an illegal amount of cancer-causing fumes into the air.

The plant, owned by medical company Sterigenics, uses a chemical called ethylene oxide to sterilize medical equipment. A recent federal report showed long term exposure to that chemical is known to cause cancer, and the Willowbrook plant was giving it off at “elevated levels.”

Frank Trilla is the mayor of Willowbrook. He says the report caused a panic among residents.

“Ya know, there’s really two issues here:" he explained. "What’s currently coming out and what’s been comin’ out for 30 years. We just don’t know what the emissions were in 1985 when there was no filtration.”

Mayor Trilla says his community needs answers.

“There’s people that think that it’s affected their lives, their health, their loved ones, and there’s no way to disprove it or prove it," he said.

The Illinois EPA said in a statement it wants the plant shut down until the federal EPA can conduct more air testing to confirm the cancer risks. Sterigenics responded with its own statement, calling the move “short-sighted” and saying the Willowbrook plant is being "singled out."

Illinois Republican House Leader Jim Durkin on Monday called for a House committee study of ethylene oxide emissions.

Sam is a Public Affairs Reporting intern for spring 2018, working out the NPR Illinois Statehouse bureau.
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