FILE - Philip Macnabb, president of Sterigenics

Sterigenics president Philip Macnabb

An Illinois lawmaker has filed legislation that he said would ban the use of a widely-used but cancerous chemical just months after passing the nation’s most restrictive regulations for use of the chemical.

Industry advocates said it would disrupt multiple industries and Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office said it may not succeed in shutting down a facility that emitted large amounts of the chemical.

State Sen. John Curran, R-Downers Grove, filed legislation Monday that would gradually ban the use of ethylene oxide, referred to as EO, by businesses in Illinois that apply for a Clean Air Act Permit and a ban on others who use it by 2022. 

“Sterigenics should not be allowed to reopen,” Curran said. “This facility has been leaking dangerous levels of ethylene oxide into the area for decades and there has been zero accounting for the damage that they have already done.”

Senate Bill 2264 is a modified version of the ban he filed in 2018 that didn’t pass.

Curran said the legislation is directly aimed at ensuring Sterigenics, which operates a medical sterilization business in Willowbrook, is not allowed to resume operations in any capacity. Work in that facility was shut down in February after a judge allowed a court-ordered shutdown based on Illinois nuisance laws. 

Monitoring found that the facility had been emitting much more EO than previously reported, which residents said coincided with a spike in certain types of cancer in recent years. 

Industry representatives said the bill would disrupt a number of sectors and needlessly cost jobs. 

“Ethylene oxide helps make many products Illinois families use every day, including certain plastics, adhesives, safety glass, textiles and personal care products. Critically, ethylene oxide supports our healthcare industry through the sterilization of medical supplies that are relied on by families across our state and region,” the Chemical Industry Council of Illinois said in a statement. “Over 1,500 Illinois jobs would be directly impacted by a ban of ethylene oxide while countless other Illinois jobs dependent on products made with ethylene oxide would be affected.” 

Curran said the absence of a medical supply shortage in the nearly six months since the Willowbrook facility was shuttered was proof that a ban wouldn’t disrupt industries as the representatives said it would. 

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker had offered to call a special session should lawmakers request it to pass further measures, but Curran said it would be unnecessary considering they’re scheduled to be back in Springfield in October. 

“This may, ultimately, be an issue that would be more likely to be taken up in fall veto [session],” Curran said, adding that getting the requisite number of lawmakers to cut their summer breaks short would likely prove difficult.

In a statement to Capitol Fax, Pritzker’s office said Curran’s bill wouldn’t apply to Sterigenics because the recently passed legislation takes away Sterigenics’ requirement to submit a CAAPP form to the state. Curran said Tuesday that the bill could change. 

“My full intent here is that this bill apply to Sterigenics,” Curran said.

Under the existing agreement between Sterigenics and the state, the company wouldn’t be able to restart operations until December. 

A DuPage County Circuit Court is scheduled to hear input from nearby communities about the consent decree in September.

Staff Reporter

Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois government and statewide issues for The Center Square. He has produced radio shows for stations in Bloomington/Normal and Peoria, and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.