Duckworth, Durbin taking advantage of Willowbrook scare
The general elections are over, but elected officials are still getting plenty of play out of a false alarm in the Willowbrook area over reports, since retracted, that unhealthy levels of a gas are being released from a local business, Sterigenics.
U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, a Democract, scheduled a roundtable discussion in DuPage County on Friday where, according to a press advisory released by her office, she will hear from “Willowbrook-area residents affected by exposure to known carcinogen ethylene oxide.”
“Community members with the Stop Sterigenics group will discuss their concerns about exposure to ethylene oxide emissions from Sterigenics,” the advisory went on to say.
Duckworth is also listed with fellow Democratic Senator Dick Durbin as a co-sponsor of newly introduced legislation in Washington that would target Sterigenics and other medical sterilization facilities as the sources of “harmful emissions in Illinois,” a November 28 news release said.
Reps. Brad Schneider, Dan Lipinski and Bill Foster, all Illinois Democrats, have introduced companion legislation in the House.
Duckworth’s roundtable discussion comes on the heels of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hosting a Willowbrook community forum on Thursday after admitting the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, a dead news period, that its ethylene oxide (EO) tests were flawed. The agency offered no retraction or apology to area residents who are almost certain to see their property values drop due to the faulty report. (There have already been reports of potential home buyers abandoning plans to move into the area because of the EO scare. The DuPage Policy Journal will follow up in future stories.)
Forum attendee Jackie Harding of La Grange told a reporter with Local Government Information Services that the Trump administration was to blame for the EPA missteps, saying it "tied their hands.”
Sylvia McIvor, an alderwoman from Darien, said that it was "new information" that the EPA is basing its EO health concerns on modeling, and not data, after the agency admitted that its testing samples were contaminated with another gas. Scientists have discounted the agency’s modeling used to assess risk.
Joe Marchese of Darien blamed the Trump administration and Gov. Bruce Rauner for holding back information on the EO emissions after being asked whether Rauner's former business affiliation may have played a part in the company’s being singled out. Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker used the information against Rauner durgubernatoril ing the campaign.
EO is both a manmade and a naturally occurring gas that people breathe every day whether they live a few blocks from the Sterigenics or miles away. Motor vehicles, farms and even decaying plants produce EO. Tests conducted in mid-October by Ramboll, an international engineering and consulting firm, showed the gas is prevalent throughout the Chicagoland area. And levels tested were all well above risk threshold established by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)
“All the test samples which captured EO would have failed the ‘risk’ standard relied upon by the ATSDR report—not because the air is unsafe, but because the ATSDR standard is illogical,” Sterigenics said in a Nov. 29 statement to the Willowbrook community. “The system has failed the citizens of Willowbrook by allowing flawed data measured against an illogical standard to be accepted as fact. The real travesty has been the needless fear and worry about safety that good people of Willowbrook have had to wrongly endure.”
The statement continued: “[Using] EO is the only method approved by the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) to sterilize millions of critical medical devices—methods like hydrogen peroxide, gamma radiation and others simply cannot achieve the stringent sterilization standards set by the FDA at the scale required to meet the demand for these critical products and devices. A disruption in production would halt sterilization, negatively impacting public health in Illinois and beyond.”