Officials say Vernon facility poses public health risk, releasing dangerous levels of chemical

Eric Resendiz Image
Tuesday, August 9, 2022
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On Monday, elected officials called on the South Coast Air Quality Management District to shut down a facility site in Vernon that is posing a public health risk.

VERNON, Calif. (KABC) -- Elected officials and Vernon community partners joined together Monday for a call to action. They requested for the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) to shut down the medical sterilization facility Sterigenics. This comes after reports of the site released dangerously high levels of ethylene oxide, a chemical linked to cancer. Officials said Sterigenics was releasing six times more than what is allowed.

"For it to continue to operate would be devastating to our communities. We don't want cancer-causing chemicals in our communities. We want it shut down," said Assemblymember Miguel Santiago.

Sterigenics sterilizes medical equipment using ethylene oxide. SCAQMD said during an investigation that started in April, they found the site was releasing elevated levels of ethylene oxide causing a significant risk to the public.

"They have been in talks with us about doing something about it. As of now it's been all talk. Enough talk. It is time to shut down," said Maywood Mayor Pro Tem Frank Garcia. "We have three elementary schools within one mile walking distance from here."

Sterigenics wrote in a statement to ABC7:

Sterigenics is confident in the continued safety of our employees, surrounding off-site workers and communities near our Vernon facility. SCAQMD's review supports that fact, indicating the Vernon facilities are not a risk to nearby residents. We are committed to rigorous employee safety protocols and follow Cal/OSHA's stringent employee protection rules.Sterigenics' recent agreement with SCAQMD to implement additional protection measures will further enhance our already safe operations. Sterigenics is committed to continuing our record of longstanding compliance with regulatory requirements and safely fulfilling our critical role in safeguarding public health through the sterilization of over 45 million essential medical devices and supplies at our Vernon facility each year.

SCAQMD wrote in a statement to ABC7:

South Coast AQMD has an ongoing investigation of the Sterigenics Vernon facility, and filed an Order for Abatement with the agency's Hearing Board.If the Hearing Board approves the Order, Sterigenics would be required to monitor EtO levels and curtail operations if levels exceed those specified in the Order. Operations cannot resume until South Coast AQMD confirms EtO levels have been reduced below the thresholds.

"We don't want to wait another day. Sterigenics needs to shut down right now. And AQMD has got to force them to shut down," said Assemblymember Santiago.

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