Gov. Pritzker Signs Bills Protecting Illinoisans from Cancer-causing Chemicals

Illinois EPA gains tools to increase regulations on Ethylene Oxide emissions

(CHICAGO) — Today, Gov. JB Pritzker signed legislation tightening restrictions on the cancer-causing chemical ethylene oxide in Illinois. The bills, SB1852 and SB1854, were proposed after tests showed alarming levels of ethylene oxide near facilities using the chemical.

“This major legislative success is owed to all those who have been impacted by ethylene oxide and took action to stand up for themselves and their neighbors,” said Jen Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council. “The General Assembly and Governor Pritzker should be credited for listening to these communities and responding to protect them from environmental contaminants.”

Recent research and reporting by the US Environmental Protection Agency confirmed that ethylene oxide, a chemical used in the manufacturing and sterilization of medical equipment, is a potent carcinogen linked to breast and other cancer varieties. These studies also found that cancer rates may be far higher in Willowbrook, Illinois because of exposure to this dangerous chemical. Reporting by the Chicago Tribune found that Waukegan’s western boundaries, as well as Gurnee, Park City, North Chicago, Warren Township and Naval Station Great Lakes, are also at risk from ethylene oxide emissions from facilities in those areas.

“The two pieces of legislation addressing ethylene oxide — one on the sterilization process and the other on manufacturing facilities that use ethylene oxide — are a good first step to help bring equity to communities with cumulative environmental health risks. We are grateful that, at a time when our federal environmental agencies are ignoring science, our state officials are working to keep our communities safer,” said Diana Burdette a Clean Power Lake County volunteer.

SB1852 puts restrictions on facilities like Medline and Sterigenics in Willowbrook, which use ethylene oxide for sterilization. The new law requires facilities to reduce emissions by 99.9 percent and sets emissions, dispersion and ambient air testing protocols. 

Stop Sterigenics member Margie Donnell said, “While special interests are weakening protections at the federal level, Illinois’s passage of SB1852 is a strong first step in recognizing that ethylene oxide is an extremely dangerous chemical and that regulations need to reflect the danger it poses to public health. Our community is grateful to Sen.Curran for standing with us from the beginning and the governor for promises kept.”

SB1854 requires manufacturers that use ethylene oxide to put in place environmental safeguards. For example, Vantage, manufacturer in Gurnee, IL, is now required to have an Illinois EPA-approved emission monitoring plan and dispersion modeling in order to receive a site-specific permit for ethylene oxide emissions.

“People of faith across Illinois applaud Governor Pritzker and legislative leadership for addressing ethylene oxide in these bills,” said Celeste Flores of Faith In Place Action Fund. “They are a good first step towards bringing equity to Lake County’s most vulnerable community members. We look forward to continuing this work to make sure that no one is forced to breathe this dangerous chemical.”

“SB 1854 is an important step toward protecting the residents of Lake County from the dangers of ethylene oxide emissions. We are grateful to Senator Bush and Representative Mason for spearheading this legislation, and to the governor for signing it into law. Stop EtO in Lake County will continue our work to ensure that all residents of Illinois are protected from this dangerous gas,” said Tea Tanaka, senior scientist and representative of Stop EtO in Lake County.


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