Now that Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Environmental Protection Agency has shut down a facility accused of releasing unsafe levels a carcinogen into a residential area, Illinois lawmakers are targeting other facilities in Illinois.
The IEPA issued a seal order to Sterigenics last week, temporarily halting operations at the Willowbrook facility after reports of emissions of ethylene oxide, a carcinogen, at levels exceeding federal safety standards.
State Sen. John Curran said he was grateful that the EPA shut the facility down and said he hoped the agency would close other businesses that use the chemical.
“I call for a legislative solution to permanently close this facility,” he said at a news conference.
The Illinois House Environment committee also discussed the shutdown and what should be done next.
State Rep. Sam Yingling, D-Grayslake, said his staff and others are working on legislation that would ban ethylene oxide emissions in Illinois because inaction is essentially allowing a permissible level of public poisoning.
“The safest way in addressing this would be to ban the emission of ethylene oxide by 2020,” he said.
Friday’s shutdown order was met with criticism from Sterigenics. The company maintained the facility’s legality in the face of the state’s move to shut it down.
“Unilaterally preventing a business that is operating in compliance with all state permits and regulations from carrying out its vital function sets a dangerous precedent,” the company said in a statement. "The Illinois EPA’s decision will place the health and lives of thousands of patients who rely on the critical medical products sterilized at Willowbrook at risk.”
Industry professionals take issue with the U.S. EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System, or IRIS, that they say sets the limit for acceptable exposure of EO to less than what is emitted in the human body.
“These lawmakers are grandstanding to gain political points, but they are simply contributing to a government-created health scare,” said Angela Logomasini, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “Such alarmism harms rather than helps communities trying to figure out what the actual risk level is related to EO emissions. The Trump EPA is right to cautiously continue researching and measuring EO levels, which thus far do not warrant alarm.”
A federal judge on Wednesday denied Sterigenic's request to have the seal order lifted.