Below is the testimony I was prepared to give before the scheduled IL Senate hearing on Tuesday, October 2 was abruptly cancelled without explanation.
I’m here today as a mother, wife, community member and daughter. I’m also an author, who should be hard at work on my fourth novel after a very busy summer spent watching my husband being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Instead, my life took a giant pivot a couple of weeks ago on the same day that I had a life-changing “aha moment.”
At the end of August, I was shocked to learn, along with the rest of my community and several surrounding communities, that we’d been slowly being poisoned without our knowledge by a company called Sterigenics. It was stunning news; that this chemical corporation had been operating since 1984 in an unassuming little building that’s nestled in the middle of our community, so close to so many of our homes and schools. They’ve been burning toxic chemicals that are heavy and don’t easily disperse and releasing them into our air to settle down to the ground level where our kids play and learn and breathe. Even now, they are still continuing to operate, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Needless to say, weeks of sleepless nights followed. Nightmares about letting our son continue to play sports on fields that are less than a mile away. Worry about opening the windows in our home or car. Urging my father to walk indoors on a track in Oakbrook, rather than his usual neighborhood route in the middle of the polluted zone. During the course of one of those sleepless nights, I got up out of bed with a sick feeling in my stomach. I’d been thinking a lot about my parents, and what Sterigenics had done to them and to our family. (Read my previous blog to learn about my mom’s death and my dad’s brain tumor, courtesy of years of unknowingly breathing in the air being polluted and made toxic by Sterigenics.)
I wrote that blog and pressed send…and tried to go back to bed. What I woke up to was stunning. Hundreds and hundreds of emails from friends and neighbors, detailing illnesses in their families and in their own bodies, many of them with zero family history of those same diseases.
Again…pardon me if that’s the day I stopped believing in coincidence.
I know that Sterigenics has not done all they can to protect our loved ones, despite what they insist upon regurgitating to the press. I frankly don’t believe that they care. They almighty dollar reigns supreme here. They continue to maintain that the situation is being “monitored.” They are fine with the fact that tens of thousands of residents are essentially lab rats in the meantime. We’ve been lab rats for over thirty years, all while they filled their coffers.
As I’ve said before, our first instinct as a family was to move away, and as soon as possible. But as these emails kept pouring in, I realized that many of the people who’d written to me would never have the chance to tell their stories…or that for many people, the pain is still too deep and too personal to share. I felt it incumbent upon our family to use the voice we’ve been given because of my husband’s Hall of Fame baseball career to try to make a difference. That is why we chose to stay and fight for our community. We are honored to use the spotlight that shines on my husband to stand next and shed light on something that REALLY matters—the lives and health of our friends and neighbors.
Sterigenics is a five billion dollar CHEMICAL company. They misuse the name HEALTH. Make no mistake; they do nothing good for your health or mine. Not only do they NOT belong in a heavily-populated area like Willowbrook, but they have the means to either relocate to a remote location, or to stop using this KNOWN CARCINOGEN altogether and instead use their considerable dollars to find another way to do business.
Many of our local hospitals and independent physicians and dentists have written to tell us that they have already stopped using the services Sterigenics provides because of the known health risks. We have a letter with us today, drafted and signed by over 100 local physicians, calling for an immediate shutdown of this toxic company. Physicians know all too well the long and short-term health consequences for us all if this company remains operational.
Shame on the Illinois EPA for getting into bed with Sterigenics and with their mouthpiece, Kathleen Hoffmann. It’s interesting to note for the record that articles written by Kathleen Hoffmann are not only published on the ILEPA website, but are regularly praised by members of that organization. (You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.) Also interesting to note is the fact that Ms Hoffmann lives many miles away, likely unwilling to subject her own family to the same health hazards that our community and her own employees—who are paid near minimum wage in some cases—have to endure.
I guess when you have all of the information, you can make informed decisions for your family How nice. Our community, on the other hand, wasn’t afforded the courtesy of knowing all of the information until mid-August. Some of us have lived here the entire time the air has been toxic. For thirty years.
I’d like to think that someone with a conscience will step up and do the right thing here. Will it be you, Kathleen Hoffmann? Or will it be your CEO, Michael B Petros Jr, who is currently hiding out in Cleveland under the company’s new name, Sotera Health, and serving on the board of directors at the Cleveland Clinic? Will it be the folks at the ILEPA, who have the power to shut this place down tomorrow? Or will it be our Governor, Bruce Rauner, who has that very same power?
One or all of you knows that this is the right thing to do. The laws that allowed Sterigenics to operate here originally haven’t kept up with the science that says that your continuing to operate today is negligent. You’ve awoken our community, and now we won’t rest until Sterigenics is gone, and ETO is banned from use state-wide.
That is the new goal.
Ethylene Oxide is poison. It’s a known carcinogen. It’s killed and sickened too many of my friends and neighbors. I implore you to do the right thing and discontinue its use in our state, and cease operations at Sterigenics Willowbrook, effective immediately.
Our lives depend on your humanity.
Where is your humanity?