May 03, 2019

Duckworth, Durbin, Schneider, Foster, Lipinski, Casten & Underwood Ask ATSDR to Conduct Air Monitoring for Ethylene Oxide in Lake County


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), along with Representatives Brad Schneider (D-IL-10), Bill Foster (D-IL-11), Dan Lipinski (D-IL-3), Sean Casten (D-IL-6) and Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14), wrote to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) this week requesting the agency immediately begin air quality monitoring at two facilities in Lake County, Illinois, to determine whether ethylene oxide (EtO) emissions exceed safe levels. The Members of Congress also initiated a request to ATSDR to conduct a health consultation in Lake County to determine whether a public health risk exists to the communities of Gurnee and Waukegan and to hold a community forum. This request comes after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency denied multiple requests to conduct the monitoring.

“Since exposure to ethylene oxide became a concern in Illinois, ATSDR has been a critical leader in helping to determine the scope of the problem,” the Members of Congress wrote. “We believe the public health challenge posed by ethylene oxide requires a whole of government approach. We are asking ATSDR to provide vital Federal assistance to Lake County in making sure air monitoring takes place and interpreting data derived from the ambient air levels of ethylene oxide.”

The Members of Congress asked ATSDR to monitor the air surrounding Medline Industries, Inc., and Vantage Specialty Chemicals, Inc., which produce EtO emissions. EtO is classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a known carcinogen and has been linked to higher incidences of certain cancers. The Members have repeatedly asked the EPA to conduct EtO emissions testing, but it has failed to do so, though the EPA did begin ambient air quality morning in Willowbrook outside of Sterigenics after their requests. The Members of Congress have been strong advocates for residents in Illinois communities with EtO-emitting facilities, pressing the agency to take immediate action to protect residents from potential public health threats. They have also called for the EPA to update its safety standards that regulate emissions of the carcinogen.

A full copy of the letter is available online here.