Legislation targeting ethylene oxide (EO)/Sterigenics likely off until next session; new testing shows normal EO levels
Legislation filed in the General Assembly in reaction to a near panic in the Willowbrook area stemming from faulty reports of unhealthy levels of the gas, ethylene oxide (EO), is unlikely to see action this year, industry sources told the DuPage Policy Journal.
With only one day, Thursday, November 28, remaining in the veto session, the House and Senate have little time to send a bill targeting EO emissions to the governor. In addition, support weakened for legislation that would have banned the use of EO and shut down plants using the gas with the news of pending amendment language to counter the more drastic measures.
“Unless something unusual happens then in my experience this issue is dead until next session,” one business lobbyist said.
Late on Tuesday, amendment language was floated to allow the plants using EO to remain open but require them to install tougher emission control equipment.
Environmental and social activists charged that the amendment language was an industry “sham” bill introduced to “hijack” the more severe measures.
“See the letter below that we wrote to Representative Carol Sente—the outgoing head of the IL Environment Committee—to oppose her attempt to sneak through a watered-down version of our pending legislation tomorrow,” Andrea Thome, wife of former Major League Baseball star Jim Thome, tweeted Tuesday evening.
The uproar started in the Willowbrook area in late summer with published reports of data collected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that showed what another federal agency, the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR), determined to be unhealthy, even dangerous, levels of EO. They blamed the Sterigenics plant, which uses EO to sterilize medical equipment. But last week, the EPA backpedaled its own findings, saying that the results were skewed because they inadvertently included the presence of another gas.
Scientists and industry leaders say that singling out Sterigenics is both unfair and founded on questionable science. EO is a byproduct not only of industries like Sterigenics (and there are hundreds across the country) but of motor vehicles, agricultural chemicals and even decaying plant life.
A third-party test of the Chicagoland area, in fact, showed that “there are normally occurring levels of background EO across the entire area,” according to a statement released by Sterigenics on November 27.
The gas was detected in 38 of 39 samples taken October 12 and October 23.
Sterigenics said that the methodology used in the measuring was sound, and the samples free of other gases that would skew the results.
The EPA has scheduled an open house and community forum to provide updates concerning EO in the Willowbrook for Thursday, November 29 at Ashton Place.