Cobb County

Medical sterilization facility under fire in Cobb, closes Chicago facility

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — A medical sterilization company under fire in multiple states, including Georgia, for releasing potentially cancer-causing chemicals into the air, announced Monday that it is closing its suburban Chicago plant.

The Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook, Illinois, has been closed since February because of concerns about the release of ethylene oxide. The company had reached a deal to reopen after agreeing to install new equipment to meet new standards set in Illinois.

"Unfortunately, inaccurate and unfounded claims regarding Sterigenics and the unstable legislative and regulatory landscape in Illinois have created an environment in which it is not prudent to maintain these critical sterilization operations in Willowbrook," the company said in a statement.

"Sterigenics will continue to lead the way in industry safety by voluntarily implementing new controls at our other sterilization facilities," the statement added.

The Cobb County, Georgia, plant has been shut down since around Labor Day weekend to install emissions reduction equipment. But a request for construction permitting revealed the occupancy permitting status was outdated, according to Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr. The Cobb County fire marshal stepped in, as county leaders moved to keep the facility shut down until it can meet higher safety and fire code standards.

They want to use a third party to determine what those standards consist of moving forward.

For those living and working around the Sterigenics medical sterilization plant the latest revelation is upsetting.

"The county obviously didn't know. So here we are being subjected to this and just now finding out after all these years," said Lugene Shownyo, who works near the plant.

[READ: Law firm preparing toxic air cases, including property value claims]

"They need to be shut down completely because if they've been going on that basis for all these years, what are they going to be going on in the future? ” Shownyo asked.

The plant is installing emissions reduction equipment for the gas ethylene oxide -- a cancer-causing chemical used to clean medical supplies.

No one in the community knew about the operation or its potential danger until a WebMD investigation earlier this summer.

[READ: City of Atlanta to join air testing over concerns of toxic fumes from Cobb plant]

Since then the Cobb County plant has been under scrutiny for an unreported leak and employee accident, litigation led by a state lawmaker and threats to sue over property values and health risks.

“It will be going back and forth I'm sure for a long time, but no, we'll never be able to trust them again,” Shownyo told Carr.

Sterigenics offered no comment Friday regarding the demand by county leaders to remain closed.