Ethylene Oxide Emissions Bills Pass State Senate After Sterigenics Shutdown

Efforts to protect the public from emissions of the toxic chemical ethylene oxide from plants like Sterigenics in suburban Willowbrook made a significant step forward. A bill that sets standards for the monitoring and enforcement of emissions throughout Illinois was recently passed by the Illinois State Senate.

State Sen. John Curran (R) of Downers Grove sponsored and field Senate Bill 1854 which acts as an amendment to the Illinois Environmental Protection Act. Facilities would be subjected to mandatory random inspections and testing, and random ambient air testing at least four times annually. The bills are heading to the Illinois House of Representatives next.

Sterigenics was temporarily shut down by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency after record-levels of ethylene oxide were detected near the Willowbrook plant. The chemical is used in the process of sterilizing medical devices and other equipment.


Dangers of Ethylene Oxide

Exposure to ethylene oxide can cause a wide range of potentially serious or deadly diseases. Since 1985, the volatile substance has been on the federal list of human carcinogens. Among the dangers of ethylene oxide exposure that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has reported include:

  • Birth defects
  • Forms of cancer, including pancreatic and stomach
  • Hodgkin’s Disease
  • Leukemia
  • Lymphoma

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