CHICAGO (CBS) – Illinois’ governor and attorney general are sharpening their investigation into a suburban company accused of improperly dumping cancer causing chemicals.
New EPA testing shows high levels of ethylene oxide around the Willowbrook operation of Sterigenics, a company that sterilizes medical equipment. CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini, earlier this week, reported on workers who say the company improperly disposed of the chemicals.
On Thursday, Gov. JB Pritzker and Attorney General Kwame Raoul released a joint statement saying they are “deeply disturbed” to hear of alleged improper handling of dangerous chemicals.
Jeanne Hochhalter, who is being treated for breast cancer that she believes is connected to Sterigenics’ practices, says the workers’ revelations should lead to a criminal probe.
Breast cancer is one of the cancers allegedly tied to etheylene oxide exposure, one of the chemicals Sterigenics uses to sterilize medical equipment.
“I feel that the company is at this point, to me, willfully pumping it out there,” said Hochhalter, who lived near one of the company warehouses. “They know their levels are high.”
That warehouse was one of three Sterigenics operated without public knowledge—used to air out the chemicals used on the equipment.
“This drives me crazy because there were no checks and balances,” Hochhalter said.
One worker at the plant told CBS 2 the company released chemicals at a high level and never reported to state environmental officials.
“Those who weren’t using a mask would have to evacuate the area,” said the worker, who did not want to be identified. “However it happened so many times you would just blow it off. … Just leave the doors open, it [the chemicals] will clear out.”
Workers also told CBS 2 that company bosses ordered certain chemicals dumped right into the public sewer system.
“They would have us hose it down, scrub it out, and then squeegee it right into the drainage pits,” one worker said.
That news made Hochhalter very upset.
“And I had not been angry through my cancer journey whatsoever,” she said. “Now I’m angry. I’m very angry.”
Sterigenics denies all claims made by the former workers and says they operate within the limits of the company’s permit and regulations.