Sterigenics Hit With 32 New Lawsuits

Andy Dahn
August 20, 2019 - 4:27 pm

Bernie Tafoya/ WBBM


CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- A Willowbrook medical equipment sterilization company, accused of knowingly emitting cancer-causing chemicals into the atmosphere for years, is facing dozens of new lawsuits from residents.

"They literally used this community as guinea pigs," said attorney Steven Hart, who represents some of the victims.

Thirty-two new lawsuits have been filed against Sterigenics by victims like Jeanne Hochhalter, who lived and worked less than a mile from the plant. Hochhalter has since been diagnosed with breast cancer.

"It's been hell," she told reporters Tuesday. "I've been through chemo, I've had my body mutilated. It has impacted every single part of my life and they knew. Nobody should have to go through anything like this. I am here to fight."

Jana Coney and her husband have lived three blocks from Sterigenics since 1987. Today, they are both battling cancer.

"The anxiety is unbearable. You lie down in your bed at night, you want to read a book or watch some television and suddenly, you're conscious of every breath you take," Coney said. 

Attorney Todd Smith said the company appears to be on a path to reopening.

"They've claimed that they will have this down to 85 pounds of ethylene oxide per year," he said. "We see no reason to believe them. They've polluted the airs there with thousands and thousands of pounds for decades."

Another attorney estimated that the number of cases against the company will exceed 1,000. A hearing on the potential reopening of the facility is set for next month.