FILE - Rita Mayfield

Illinois Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan, debates state budget legislation while on the House floor during session at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield in 2011.

Illinois lawmakers have filed new legislation aimed at reducing ethylene oxide emissions and potentially making it impossible for companies that use the chemical to operate even after a federal agency warned of potential hospital service issues.

When it appeared that a court would allow for Sterigenics to reopen its Willowbrook-based facility that used ethylene oxide to sterilize medical instruments, lawmakers filed bills that, if passed, would effectively shut down all companies that do so. 

“I live within one mile of Medline and my mother who lived with me died from cancer,” state Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan, said.

A DuPage County Circuit Judge approved an agreement on Sept. 6 that would ultimately allow Sterigenics to reopen its facility without admitting fault or wrongdoing in the process. 

If House Bill 3888 is enacted, it would give businesses until 2021 to lower all ethylene oxide emissions to trace amounts and hospitals located near residential areas would have to do the same the following year.

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Willowbrook, also filed legislation that would allow towns to ban the use of ethylene oxide within their borders.

“Sterigenics continues to prove they cannot be trusted and have no place in our region,” Durkin said. “If the Illinois EPA continues moving forward in issuing permits, then we must do everything we can to empower our local municipalities in their fight to keep Sterigenics closed for good.”

The Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly warned of possible medical instrument shortages should the Illinois facilities or others suddenly be shut down, but no hospitals reported service disruptions when Sterigenics was closed in February. 

Dozens of residents who have been diagnosed with cancer have sued Sterigenics and other companies in the northern suburbs that emit the chemical. 

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.