2 Lake County polluters emit same cancer-causing gas as Sterigenics, but authorities haven’t warned the public

Read the full story in the Chicago Tribune.

Communities facing abnormally high cancer risks from toxic air pollution stand out on a color-coded map created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Only a few dozen residential areas nationwide are shaded dark blue like neighborhoods surrounding the Sterigenics facility in west suburban Willowbrook, where potent ethylene oxide gas escapes from fumigation chambers used to sterilize medical instruments, pharmaceutical drugs and food.

Pull back from a tight focus on Willowbrook and another dark blue cluster comes into view about 40 miles northeast in Lake County.

More than 19,000 people live within areas at risk from ethylene oxide emitted by a Medline Industries facility near Interstate 94 in the southwest corner of Waukegan, the interactive map shows.

Another facility in Lake County could pose even greater risks than Sterigenics or Medline. Federal and state officials confirmed the only reason it isn’t on the map is that someone at the state level failed to provide the facility’s ethylene oxide emissions for the U.S. EPA’s latest estimate of cancer risks, known as the National Air Toxics Assessment.

Vantage Specialty Chemicals in Gurnee reported to another office at the EPA that during 2014 it released 6,412 pounds of ethylene oxide — more than either Sterigenics or Medline did during the same period.

The federal agency estimated cancer risks based on 5,566 pounds of the toxic gas emitted by Sterigenics that year and 3,058 pounds released by Medline. Without the Vantage emissions in its calculations, the EPA dramatically underestimated the dangers to nearly 23,000 people living near the Gurnee chemical plant.

None of the findings about Medline and Vantage has been shared with the public until now.


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