October 22, 2018

Duckworth, Durbin Ask OSHA for Lower Exposure Limit, Alternatives for Ethylene Oxide


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) wrote to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today requesting the agency do more to protect American workers from ethylene oxide and explore alternatives to for sterilization. An August report published by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Control Registry (ATSDR), an arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), detailed higher than normal cancer risk in the area surrounding Sterigenics, a Willowbrook-based company that uses ethylene oxide to sterilize medical products and equipment. Ethylene oxide has been classified as a known carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and has been found to cause cancer.

“Ethylene oxide was characterized as a known carcinogen two years ago, yet public health standards meant to protect workers exposed to ethylene oxide at sterilization facilities, and the communities surrounding them, have not been updated,” the Senators wrote. “Workers in sterilization facilities have an increased risk for cancer and we are concerned that workers at these facilities could be vulnerable to other health impacts.”

On September 25th, Duckworth and Durbin, along with Congressman Bill Foster (D-IL-11), requested the EPA and Sterigenics begin testing local air quality for harmful ethylene oxide emissions and make their results available to the general public – and that the company provide personal exposure tests to Willowbrook residents. The EPA notified the Members of Congress on September 27th that they had begun to test air quality near Willowbrook-based Sterigenics for emissions of ethylene oxide. On October 12th, the Members also asked the EPA to fund DuPage County public health efforts and to asses ethylene oxide exposure nationwide.

A copy of the letter the Members of Congress sent OSHA today is available online here.