During a meeting with members of the Illinois Congressional delegation, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Chicago, pressed Sotera Health CEO Michael Petras to hold a public forum to explain why he believes Sterigenics does not pose a health threat to the surrounding communities and should not be shut down.
Lipinski also asked Petras to fulfill the request he made six weeks ago to begin conducting perimeter air quality monitoring around the company’s facilities in Willowbrook. Such monitoring could provide evidence to either back up Sterigenics’ claim that it is safe or show that it is unsafe and compel the Environmental Protection Agency to issue an order suspending operations.
“Today I had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Petras and tell him the company’s top executives need to face the public,” Lipinski said in a news release. “They need to hear from residents directly impacted by the Willowbrook plant emissions and explain why they believe it should not be shut down.
“After I toured the Sterigenics plant six weeks ago, I requested the company commence perimeter monitoring if they seek to demonstrate their facilities are safe. Over the intervening six weeks, my office repeatedly requested updates from the company on its progress in developing a perimeter monitoring plan but were given none. Even with the government shutdown Sterigenics could have drawn up a plan to submit to the EPA, but there’s no evidence they have done this. While I foremost believe that the Sterigenics plant should be closed, short of that happening, they should immediately draw up a perimeter monitoring plan for EPA approval.”
This summer, the EPA reported high cancer risk in communities across the country with facilities – including Sterigenics – that emit EtO, which is used both to sterilize medical equipment and to produce other chemicals. The EPA’s estimate of EtO’s cancer risk was recently updated after 30 years and the risk is now believed to be at least 30 times higher than previously thought. This means the excess cancer risk around Sterigenics is estimated to be around 300 cancer cases per million people or higher, well above the level of 100 cases per million the EPA uses as a threshold to take action.