It still doesn’t feel real to me.
I took a long walk in my neighborhood this morning, and for the first time in over a year, I felt a real sense of peace. Sterigenics is leaving. As in gone for good, out of our community, and out of our lives. The medical sterilization company that left a swath of destruction in its path during a thirty-four-year reign of terror in the Western suburbs of Chicago—mostly under the cloak of darkness—claiming good health from some and entire lives from others, while robbing the rest of us of the feeling everyone should have in their own homes: safety.
Sterigenics can complain all they want about having to take their operations somewhere else, blaming the “unstable legislating and regulatory landscape in Illinois” for their woes. (Poor billion dollar corporation.) Basically, they think the law sponsored by Rep. Jim Durkin that our community activists worked hard to pass—called the Matt Haller law, named after a young husband and father who lost his life to stomach cancer last winter—is too strict.
The truth is: our laws aren’t strict enough, including the Matt Haller law, which at least kept the wolves at bay for a while, but had just enough holes in it to almost allow Sterigenics to reopen and reoperate. We CAN do better—and we will. Just because this battle was won, doesn’t mean the war is over. There are other companies and even hospitals who still use ETO throughout the state of Illinois. We need to continue to push to pass two other bills—House Bills 3888 and 3885–which would eventually phase out the use of ethylene oxide state-wide, setting a precedent for other states to follow.
We have the opportunity to be leaders. Didn’t it feel incredible to get the news yesterday? To have so many strangers coming together to work toward a cause that benefits our common good? More of that, please!
This was our wake-up call.
If we know better, we must do better.
Next steps? We need to continue to put intense pressure on our elected leaders. They rushed to the podium for the press conference yesterday and stood alongside so many of our community warriors—moms and dads who refused to let this be the environment our kids grow up in. It was certainly a collective effort between community activists and local and state government that ultimately spelled the end for Sterigenics, but I’d argue that the hands that rock the cradle rule the world. Never underestimate the power of a pissed off parent. That said, we are grateful to all of our elected officials that were helpful throughout this fight. We see you, and we will remember when it comes time to vote. The same goes for the opportunists.
The bottom line: yesterday we all celebrated together, and deservedly so. It’s been a long and stressful year. Today we recalibrate and turn our focus to the future. A future where we expect those same elected leaders who stood alongside us yesterday in the spotlight to dig in on the front lines with us as we finish this job. We must ban ETO state-wide, while we have the power to do it.
I’d like to thank every single member of the Stop Sterigenics community who stepped up and did what they could for the cause. For some it was attending rallies and marches, for others it was using your social media voice. Every single bit of the efforts we made mattered.
Imagine what else we could do together?
Let’s remain rooted in this community energy and work together for the common good.