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Articles by Susan Cosier

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Protesters chant in front of the Oak Brook, Illinois, headquarters of Sterigenics in September 2018.

This post has been updated with a correction.

Jeanne Hochhalter has had health problems since she was a teenager. First came the respiratory issues, then the gastrointestinal and endocrine troubles. But the heaviest blow came in 2013 when a doctor diagnosed her with breast cancer. Since then she’s endured 16 surgeries, as well as chemotherapy.

Hochhalter, a 52-year-old real estate agent who grew up in Burr Ridge, Illinois, 25 miles west of Chicago, is now in remission. She couldn’t chalk her cancer up to anything in particular until her mom returned from a town hall meeting in August 2018 with a pamphlet. It detailed the health problems associated with exposure to ethylene oxide, a chemical used to sterilize medical equipment. And a plant doing just that was located fewer than 5 miles away.

“My God, Jeanne, this could have your picture,” Hochhalter’s mom told her as she handed over the sheet. The plant, owned by the company Sterigenics and operating in Willowbrook, had been emitting huge amounts of the carcinogen, known as EtO, for three decades. “I was being continuously poisoned,” Hochhalter said.

An Environmental Protection Agency report published ... Read more