By Jermont Terry


WAUKEGAN, Ill. (CBS) — High levels of cancer-causing gas have popped in the blood of people living near one plant in Waukegan, and on Monday night, families turned out to voice their concerns to the city council there.

As CBS 2’s Jermont Terry reported, residents of Waukegan and Gurnee packed the Waukegan City Council meeting – hoping the council would do more than just listen to the community’s growing concerns about what’s in the air.

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A limited study by the University of Illinois at Chicago found higher levels of ethylene oxide in the blood of people living near Medline, a medical sterilization facility in Waukegan.

“I was part of the study,” Brenda Sorensen said at the podium. “My numbers are high.”

Sorensen lives in Gurnee. She said the test revealed ethylene oxide (EtO) in her system.

The colorless gas can cause cancer.

“I don’t want to get cancer – but guess what, I’m at a high risk now,” Sorensen said. “Why? Because I dared to breathe the air.”

Sorensen sat back listening, as her neighbors all expressed their concerns about EtO levels coming from Medline.

“We have a great safety record that we’re really, really proud of,” said Medline spokesman Jesse Greenberg.

Greenberg countered by saying the latest air quality numbers show what the company is releasing is lower than average.

“We feel that any further study will just further underscore that we operate safely,” he said.

Yet, more than 2,200 people signed a petition demanding the city stop all EtO releases until a comprehensive study is done.

“We’re asking them to put a nuisance ordinance ban on EtO emissions to protect no only Waukegan and Gurnee residents, but all of Lake County,” said Sarah Crawford of the group Stop EtO in Lake County.

No action was taken by the Waukegan City Council on Monday night, but Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham acknowledged the UIC study was “alarming” to him.

Medline said it was currently working to further enhance all EtO admissions.