EPA may have overstated levels of cancer-causing gas at Sterigenics

WILLOWBROOK, Ill. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it may have overstated the emissions of a cancer-causing gas from a suburban Chicago plant that sterilizes medical instruments.

The agency released a statement Wednesday saying it recently discovered a problem with the way the gas, ethylene oxide, has been measured outside the Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook. It says another chemical, trans-2-butene, can be incorrectly identified as ethylene oxide when air quality samples are analyzed in a laboratory. Trans-2-butene can be released from petrochemical industrial processes and the burning of fossil fuels.

The EPA says it will host a community forum on the matter Nov. 29.

Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Republican DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin recently sued Sterigenics over the emissions.

In a statement Wednesday night, Sterigenics spokeswoman Kristin Gibbs said, "The EPA’s disclosure that its May air samples were flawed has significant implications. This disclosure serves to invalidate the already flawed ATSDR report. Since August, the public has been subjected to misinformation regarding the risks of exposure to EO which has created tremendous fear and concern. We remain committed to working with officials and providing the facts to reassure the public that it is safe."