Sterigenics, the company that owns a shuttered medical sterilization facility that’s been in the crosshairs of lawmakers and activists for its history of releasing a cancer-causing chemical into the Willowbrook area, will not reopen that facility.
Citing what the company called an “unpredictable legislative and regulatory landscape in Illinois,” it announced Monday that it would exit its sterilization operations in Willowbrook.
The company became the face of a campaign to rid the state of ethylene oxide, or EO, after it was found that the suburban Chicago facility was emitting much higher quantities of the chemical than previously thought, although still within federal guidelines.
The company took aim at a common criticism about Illinois' business environment in its statement.
“...inaccurate and unfounded claims regarding Sterigenics and the unstable legislative and regulatory landscape in Illinois have created an environment in which it is not prudent to maintain these critical sterilization operations in Willowbrook,” the company said in a release.
“Hospitals and patients around the United States and the world depend on Sterigenics for vital, sterilized medical products, and we cannot provide them with the certainty they require while operating safely in a state that will suspend operations of a business despite the company’s compliance with applicable rules and regulations.”
The release said the decision to shutter the property was made after Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Illinois Environmental Protection Agency approved on Sept. 20 the company’s permit to install additional control measures at its Willowbrook facility and get a court agreement to end all state litigation without penalties or finding of fault.
The governor said it was victory.
“Sterigenics’ decision today represents a significant development, demonstrating that Illinoisans will come together to protect the health and wellbeing of all of our residents – which has been my goal from the beginning,” said Pritzker via spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh.
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, a Republican state representative from nearby Western Springs, also addressed the closure.
“Sterigenics got the message that we were never going to let them reopen their doors and poison our communities again,” he said Monday.
Durkin worked closely with Stop Sterigenics and other groups to pass legislation in an effort to keep Sterigenics closed.
Industry professionals warned that the permanent closure of Sterigenics would lead to medical device shortages, with the federal government even issuing warnings about some devices that were often sterilized there.