Durbin, Duckworth Press EPA Administrator Wheeler For Stronger Standards On Ethylene Oxide Emissions

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today pressed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler on their concerns about ethylene oxide (EtO) emissions at the Medline and Vantage facilities in Lake County and Sterigenics facility in DuPage 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 hadn’t begun ambient air monitoring at the facilities in Lake County, and what the timeline is to begin such monitoring and complete dispersion modeling.

“The EPA is supposed to put the health and well-being of the people of this country above all else. It is clear that ethylene oxide emissions and the lack of an updated federal standard are cause for serious concern in DuPage and Lake Counties. Unacceptably high emissions of cancer-causing chemicals in our air aren’t something Administrator Wheeler can wait to address, and we made it clear to him today that Illinoisans are looking for him to protect their families now,” said Durbin and Duckworth.

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 manufacutring 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.