April 21, 2021

Duckworth Statement on EPA Inspector General Report Outlining Trump Administration’s Political Interference in Ethylene Oxide Management


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today released the following statement in response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of the Inspector General (OIG)’s report on the Trump Administration’s delayed risk communication and interference in protecting community members in Willowbrook and Waukegan, Illinois, from ethylene oxide (EtO) emissions. In the report, EPA OIG found that former Trump political appointees in the Office of Air and Radiation issued instructions that hindered EPA Region 5’s ability to effectively address EtO emissions, including refusing to inspect facilities unless invited to do so by the state, as well as delaying informing residents about the potential health risks of EtO emissions.

“After several Congressional requests from myself, Senator Durbin, Senator Carper, Representative Richmond and Representative Foster, the EPA Office of Inspector General revealed what we unfortunately expected: the Trump Administration chose corporate profits over the safety of our communities. They refused to take a public health crisis seriously and put Illinoisans at risk when they knew the impact ethylene oxide’s carcinogenic emissions could have on communities like Willowbrook and Waukegan.

“Since 2018 I’ve called for an investigation into the wrongdoing by Trump’s EPA, and I’m glad these communities finally have the answers they deserve, but the fact remains that they should never have had to experience this. It’s unacceptable that civil servants were instructed by senior Trump political appointees to not conduct inspections of toxic emissions, delay public notifications of dangerous levels of emissions and refuse to hold public meetings with residents impacted by this harmful cancer-causing chemical.

“EPA is supposed to ensure that everyone has access to accurate information to effectively manage health and environmental risks, and that communities have the right to participate in decision-making processes that affect their lives and livelihoods. Trump’s EPA failed that mission and our state. I will continue to work with EPA, Region 5 and Illinois to ensure that protocols are in place so that this abuse of power never happens again.”

Duckworth has been a strong advocate for communities impacted by EtO emissions, continually calling on EPA to conduct more testing and increase transparency under the Trump Administration. In 2018, Duckworth requested this investigation after reporting showed the former administration chose to not inform the public of the serious cancer risks associated with the toxic emissions.