WILLOWBROOK, Ill. (AP) — Sterigenics, the medical supply sterilization company that has been battling lawsuits and claims of increased cancer rates from fumes, announced Monday it has decided against reopening its suburban Chicago plant.
The company said it will close the plant in Willowbrook, blaming “inaccurate and unfounded claims regarding Sterigenics and the unstable legislative and regulatory landscape in Illinois.”
In August, nearly three dozen people sued Sterigenics, claiming fumes from ethylene oxide, used to sterilize medical equipment at the Willowbrook facility, have adversely affected their health. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency closed the plant in February, finding that air sampling by town officials and the federal EPA consistently found high outdoor ambient levels of ethylene oxide.
Federal regulators consider the gas a carcinogen. Sterigenics, in the past, has said ethylene oxide is the only process to sterilize medical instruments that is federally approved.
“Sterigenics appreciates that the state of Illinois has clearly acknowledged the company’s consistent record of regulatory compliance as well as the safety of the new controls we agreed to implement, and we made every effort to reach a constructive resolution,” the company said in the statement announcing the plant’s closing, adding that Illinois’ political environment makes it unwise to operate the plant.
Illinois House Republican leader, Rep. Jim Durkin, has been leading a fight against the company’s effort to continue operations outside Chicago. The Legislature is also considering measures that would phase out use of ethylene oxide except in less populated areas.
“Sterigenics got the message that we were never going to let them reopen their doors and poison our communities again,” Durkin said in a statement.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and local officials in July reached an agreement with Sterigenics that would have allowed the plant to reopen after additional emission capture and control equipment was installed.
Sterigenics also agreed to fund $300,000 in community projects designed in coordination with the state to benefit the environment and the local community.
When that agreement was announced, company President Philip Macnabb said resolution of the matter puts the company a step closer to resuming the work of sterilizing vital medical products and devices for patients in Illinois and beyond.
Sterigenics is a division of Ohio-based Sotera Health LLC, which provides safety services to the medical device, pharmaceutical, tissue and food industries.