Andrea Thome believes carcinogenic emissions from Sterigenics in Willowbrook sickened family

Mark Rivera Image
Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Willowbrook woman says carcinogenic emissions sickened family
Andrea Thome's passionate voice is on the front lines of a fight for clean air in her community.

WILLOWBROOK, Ill. (WLS) -- Andrea Thome sat down with ABC7's Mark Rivera at her home just a few miles away from Sterigenics to have a frank conversation about the company she said has been slowly poisoning the community for decades and the personal costs to her family.

Thome's passionate voice is on the front lines of a fight for clean air in her community.

"I have not been able to sleep since I heard this information in August about this company really slowly poisoning our community for the last 30 or so years without our knowledge," she said.

In the sit-down interview Thome said she believes the airborne cancer-causing chemical ethylene oxide, emitted by Willowbrook's Sterigenics facility, is to blame for her mother's death from liver disease and her father's cancer diagnosis.

"My mom passed away in October of 2014. She never smoked she never drank," Thome said. "Little did she know there was a factory a mile away poisoning her. None of us knew."

After her mother died, her father took up more outside exercise to cope.

"This Christmas he was diagnosed with a huge brain tumor that, thank God for the doctors at Rush Hospital, Dr. Burn cut out a giant tumor on Christmas Eve and saved my dad's life," she said.

Her calls for action haven't gone unnoticed. U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin have asked the EPA to test the air in Willowbrook for Sterigenics cancer risks.

The Illinois EPA said: "The company has now completed stack testing to verify the performance of the recently installed scrubber, and Illinois EPA was on-site for the duration of testing. The Agency has demanded the company release the final stack test results as soon as they are available. Illinois EPA is also working with the Illinois Attorney General's Office to review all legal options available to the state."

But mourning her mother, Thome wants action against the facility that sits just about a mile from Hinsdale South High School, highly populated areas, and several area parks

"I want people to stop passing the buck," she said. "I want someone with a moral compass to step up and do what is right for our community and that is to shut them down."

Testing of the scrubber that's designed to remove dangerous materials was done just last week. The Illinois EPA could see results in a month or two.

Meanwhile, Sterigenics' parent company Sotera Health has not responded to ABC7's request for comment.

Sterigenics released a statement saying, "The existing control systems at Willowbrook already were fully compliant with strict EPA and ILEPA limits and the preliminary test results demonstrate that the upgrades exceeded the anticipated improvement. A report will be forthcoming."

There is an informational meeting for community members tonight from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Marriott Burr Ridge.