Gov. Pritzker Signs Law Cracking Down on Ethylene Oxide Emissions, Lake County Results Released


Governor JB Pritzker signed into law the nation’s strictest limits on the emission of the cancer-causing chemical ethylene oxide after an investigation into the relationship between emissions from Sterigenics medical device sterilization plant in suburban Willowbrook and high risks of cancer in the surrounding area. The legislation comes as Lake County officials received preliminary results from tests designed to measure ethylene oxide levels near sterilization plants in Gurnee and Waukegan.

New legislation signed on Friday mandates that companies using ethylene oxide must be completely contained within the facilities, and that results of annual testing must be submitted to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Other types of facilities must acquire a permit before emitting the carcinogenic chemical.

"From the moment we found out about the risks we faced, our Village's number one priority has been the health and safety of our residents, and those who were affected around us," Willowbrook Mayor Frank Trilla said in the statement from the governor's office. "Words cannot express how grateful we are for this legislation and what it will do to address the problem going forward."

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency banned Sterigenics from using ethylene oxide, effectively shutting down the Willowbrook plant. Sterilization facilities say alternative methods, including hydrogen peroxide, steam and gamma radiation, are not compatible with certain products like surgical gowns.

The Lake County (Ill.) Health Department announced that preliminary results indicated elevated levels of ethylene oxide in Waukegan, near Vantage Specialty Chemicals, and varying lower levels at all other testing areas, including near Medline Industries in Gurnee. Test results were sent to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and are available to the public online.


What is Ethylene Oxide?

Gov. Pritzker Signs Law Cracking Down on Ethylene Oxide Emissions, Lake County Results ReleasedEthylene Oxide Levels Relatively Low Since Feb. Sterigenics ShutdownEthylene oxide has been used for decades as a highly effective fumigant which has been known to mutate DNA and trigger neurological problems since the 1940s. The chemical was put on the federal list of carcinogens in 1985, and in 2016 the EPA released a reassessment linking it more conclusively to such diseases as:

  • Breast cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Lymphomas

The scientific community has concurred with EPA researchers who concluded that ethylene oxide is far more dangerous than previously thought. Long-term exposure to even the smallest concentrations increases the chance a person will develop cancer, the EPA has concluded.

Filing an Ethylene Oxide Lawsuit

Those who suspect they may be suffering with health issues related to exposure to ethylene oxide may be entitled to file a claim seeking recovery from damages including:

  • Current and future medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of future income
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

For complete information, call the respected personal injury law offices of Cooney & Conway toll free at 800-322-5573 to speak with an experienced legal professional. You can also CLICK HERE or fill out the free consultation contact information form located on this page to have all your questions answered.