State Representative Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville) is championing new legislation that would give municipalities greater control over whether ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen linked to cancer, should be allowed to be emitted into the air within their borders.
HB 3885 was filed on Friday, just a few hours after the issuance of a court ruling that set parameters under which Willowbrook’s Sterigenics facility could reopen. The facility was shut down by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (ILEPA) in February, after air quality tests showed well-above-acceptable levels of ethylene oxide in areas around the plant. HB 3885 would allow any municipality in the state of Illinois to implement a local ban of the use of ethylene oxide within its boundaries. If a local municipality chooses to adopt this authority, sterilizing companies similar to Sterigenics would be prohibited from using ethylene oxide as a sterilization agent.
“Ethylene oxide has been on the federal list of known carcinogens since the mid-80s, yet for years Sterigenics pumped this deadly gas into the air, creating a cancer cluster and some suspected deaths,” said Wehrli. “Our courts seem determined to allow these facilities to continue using ethylene oxide, so we must put new policies in place that provide for greater local control.” Wehrli said he hopes the bill will be heard during the upcoming fall veto session in October, or even sooner if a special session can be called to consider the measure. “Time is of the essence here,” Wehrli said. “Citizens need this new tool at their disposal, so they can protect the air they breathe when the court system and the EPA do not.”