Stericycle Put on Defensive Group Protests Company's Policy on Incineration

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Byline: S. A. Mawhorr Daily Herald Business Writer

Shareholders arriving for Stericycle's annual meeting Wednesday in Rosemont were met with the sight of six women wearing plaster casts of pregnant bellies and protesting the company's incineration of medical waste.

The casts were an attempt to attract attention to concerns that emissions from Stericycle's smokestacks may contain harmful chemicals and contribute to asthma cases in the communities where they are located.

The Lake Forest-based company is the world's largest medical waste disposal company and has at least 11 incinerators around the country including one in downstate Clinton.

Protest groups at Wednesday's meeting, led by Washington D.C.- based Health Care Without Harm, said that chemicals such as dioxin and mercury found in the smoke from the incineration of medical waste have been linked to cancer, diabetes, neurological problems and developmental delays in children.

"We are here today to deliver a message to shareholders that incineration is bad for business and bad for the health of communities across the nation," said Charlotte Brody, executive director for Health Care Without Harm.

Stericycle Chief Operating Officer Rich Kogler acknowledged that chemicals such as mercury and dioxin need to be reduced in the waste being incinerated.

But he defended Stericycle's incinerators and said the smokestacks comply with federal and state regulations and that the company has spent millions to upgrade them to meet stricter regulations that will be enforced starting in September.

Brody spoke to shareholders at the annual meeting but a news conference she was conducting with out-of-town media over the phone before the meeting at the Embassy Suites hotel was cut short when hotel staff told the group it had to leave the conference room it had rented.

Randall King, the hotel's general manager, said he would refund the rental fee paid for the conference room. …