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updated: 9/23/2019 5:07 PM

Suburban lawmakers back bill to limit use of cancer-causing gas

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  • Jerry Nowicki/Capitol News IllinoisThe Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook has been closed since February.

    Jerry Nowicki/Capitol News IllinoisThe Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook has been closed since February.

  • The air quality near Medline Industries in Waukegan was monitored over the summer.

    The air quality near Medline Industries in Waukegan was monitored over the summer.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • Vantage Specialty Chemicals in Gurnee uses ethylene oxide.

    Vantage Specialty Chemicals in Gurnee uses ethylene oxide.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • Sam Yingling

    Sam Yingling

  • Melinda Bush

    Melinda Bush

 
 

Several suburban lawmakers are showing support for a new plan that would ban the use of the cancer-causing gas ethylene oxide as a sterilizer and significantly cap its use in manufacturing.

The plan was introduced by state Rep. Rita Mayfield, a Waukegan Democrat, and 33 of her colleagues have signed on as co-sponsors.

"We've reached the point where the legislature must make a decision about how much they will let their people be poisoned by pollution," said state Rep. Sam Yingling, one of the plan's chief co-sponsors. "I'm very optimistic this bill will get through the House."

Yingling, a Grayslake Democrat, planned to introduce his own legislation earlier this month but instead elected to sign on to Mayfield's plan, which he described as a compilation of the best ideas of several individual plans.

In addition to phasing out the use of ethylene oxide as a sterilizer, Mayfield's plan would put substantial limits in place on the use of the gas during manufacturing.

The plan would also require the Illinois EPA to conduct a comprehensive review of ethylene oxide use, including a list of every location where it is used and any recommendations the agency might have for future legislation designed to protect public health.

Other lawmakers who have backed Mayfield's plan include state Rep. Joyce Mason, a Gurnee Democrat, and state Rep. David McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican.

Lawmakers will return to Springfield for the brief fall veto session on Oct. 28.

State Sen. Melinda Bush, a Grayslake Democrat who has been a leader on new regulations for ethylene oxide and supported bills signed by Gov. JB Pritzker earlier in the year that required stricter limits and the installation of new scrubbing equipment, said she has signed on to be the first chief co-sponsor of the plan should it end up in the Senate.

Bush encouraged people concerned about ethylene oxide emission to attend the town hall meeting from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 2, at the College of Lake County auditorium, at 19351 W. Washington St. in Grayslake.

The Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook was closed by the state in Feburary after the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry found an elevated cancer risk for people living nearby. On Friday, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency approved a construction permit that will allow Sterigenics to install new equipment that must be in place before it is allowed to reopen.

Two Lake County facilities that also use the gas -- Vantage Specialty Chemicals in Gurnee and Medline Industries in Waukegan -- have been allowed to remain open during air quality monitoring tests conducted this summer.

• Capitol News Illinois contributed to this report.