Durbin, Duckworth Statement On CDC Report Of Ethylene Oxide Exposure In Waukegan

CDC Report Shows Higher Levels Of Cancer-Causing Ethylene Oxide For Waukegan Residents Near Medline Facility In Lake County

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today released the following statement after a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report showed higher levels of cancer-causing ethylene oxide (EtO) found in people living near Medline Industries in Waukegan, Illinois.  Medline uses EtO to sterilize medical products:

“For months, we’ve urged the U.S. EPA to conduct inspections for ethylene oxide in Region 5 facilities, including Medline in Waukegan.  For months, the EPA did nothing.  These test results prove what we feared and are extremely troubling. The EPA needs to get off the sidelines and do more to protect the public health of all Illinois families.”

In November, Durbin and Duckworth, along with U.S. Representatives Dan Lipinski (D-IL-03), Bill Foster (D-IL- 11), Brad Schneider (D-IL-10), Sean Casten (D-IL-06), and Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14), sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urging it to better protect communities from EtO emitted by industrial processes. The members, in a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, voiced concerns that the EPA’s recently proposed actions on EtO emissions are not protective enough, and once again asked EPA to quickly issue new rules for EtO emissions at commercial sterilization facilities, and publish a timeline of regulatory actions, along with a status of progress and estimated completion.  

The members also urged EPA to immediately conduct inspections of all Region 5 facilities – including Medline and Vantage Specialty Chemicals Inc. in Gurnee, Illinois, which use EtO for manufacturing and commercial sterilization.  The members also asked EPA to identify and measure emissions, and to evaluate the pollution control technology used to control stack emissions. 

Earlier this year, the Senate received information alleging that senior EPA political appointees had instructed EPA civil servants in Region 5 to avoid conducting any inspections of facilities that emit EtO. That prompted Durbin, Duckworth, and Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) to ask the EPA’s Office of Inspector General to immediately launch an independent investigation into whether the Trump EPA is attempting to prevent the public from learning about their exposure levels to EtO, which is a known carcinogen.