Durbin Asks CDC To Assist With Ethylene Oxide Emissions In Illinois

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today asked Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield to assist in efforts to protect residents of Illinois from ethylene oxide (EtO) emissions—a known carcinogen—especially those that live near the Sterigenics medical sterilization facility in Willowbrook. Currently, Sterigenics is under a seal order from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency for unacceptably high EtO emissions. Director Redfield said he had been briefed on the situation in Willowbrook and is working with local health officials. 

“I’m hoping we can work with the CDC to take a look at this company, Sterigenics, and the situation we are facing in Willowbrook,” Durbin said. 

Video of Durbin’s question in Committee is available here.


Audio of Durbin’s question in Committee is available here.


Footage of Durbin’s question in Committee is available here for TV Stations.

This week, Durbin and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) pressed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler on their concerns about EtO emissions at Sterigenics, as well as at the Medline and Vantage medical sterilization facilities in Lake County. The Senators pressed Administrator Wheeler for answers as to why the EPA has not yet implemented new standards for EtO emissions, and discussed the data released last week from outside of the Sterigenics facility, which was collected in February 2019 and showed the highest EtO emissions concentrations that have been observed since the EPA began monitoring at the facility in mid-November 2018. They also asked why the EPA has not yet begun ambient air monitoring at the facilities in Lake County, and what the timeline is to begin such monitoring and complete dispersion modeling.

Last month, Durbin and Duckworth, along with U.S. Representatives Brad Schneider (D-IL-10), Bill Foster (D-IL-11), Dan Lipinski (D-IL-03), and Sean Casten (D-IL-06), introduced a pair of bicameral bills that would hold the U.S. EPA accountable for its poor oversight of EtO emissions. Durbin and Schneider led the introduction of a bill that would revise EtO emissions standards for commercial sterilization and manufacturing facilities, and require the EPA to notify the public no more than 30 days after it learns that the new standards have been violated. Duckworth and Foster led the introduction of the Expanding Transparency of Information and Safeguarding Toxics (EtO is Toxic) Act of 2019, which would close existing loopholes that both benefit the chemical industry and allow the EPA to do nothing if a risk assessment they conduct finds that a chemical is more harmful than previously thought. In addition, the bill increases transparency, data, and public health requirements for chemicals that may present a public health risk.