socastcmsRssStartBy Cole Lauterbach | Illinois News NetworksocastcmsRssEnd
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has walked back a report regarding a suburban Chicago factory and its release of pollutants into the area. This comes as Illinois lawmakers consider outlawing the chemical widely used to sterilize medical equipment.
Earlier this year, the EPA labeled ethylene oxide a known carcinogen instead of a possible human carcinogen. The EPA also released a report on the amount of the chemical that suburban Chicago sterilization company, Sterigenics, had released into the area. On Wednesday, the agency said the report <a href="https://www.epa.gov/il/sterigenics-willowbrook-facility-latest-update#20181121">may be inaccurate</a>.
"U.S. EPA recently discovered an issue with the way ethylene oxide has been measured. As a result of the issue, monitors may have reported higher ambient levels of ethylene oxide than actually exist," the agency said. "This discovery means that the results of air quality monitoring conducted prior to October 2018 may have shown higher concentrations of ethylene oxide than were actually in the air."
In an explanation, the EPA said the sensors responsible for detecting ethylene oxide may have registered another chemical as ethylene oxide, leading to higher levels of the chemical.
It said the chemical trans-2-butene “can be incorrectly identified as ethylene oxide when air quality samples are being analyzed in a laboratory,” leading to inaccurate readings prior to the October report saying the Sterigenics facility had been releasing high levels of the cancer-causing chemical into the surrounding community.
Ethylene oxide expert Dr. Jane Teta told a Senate Environment and Conservation Committee on Nov. 14 that the EPA had overstated the danger of ethylene oxide.
“The EPA risk assessment is flawed,” she said. “It should not be used as it has been used to predict cancer risks of any kind.”
Lawmakers questioned Teta about her affiliations with industry stakeholders who would be affected a ban on ethylene oxide.
Since the initial EPA report and subsequent ones about exposure, community members near the Sterigenics facility in Willowbrook had been blaming the company after being diagnosed with cancer. While she said sympathized with their stories, Teta said there was no way to prove that EO had caused their diagnoses.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency referred a matter regarding Sterigenics to the Illinois Attorney General in October, shortly after the initial report.
A bill that has been gaining support in the Illinois legislature would completely ban the use of ethylene oxide in the state by 2022.
“The village of Willowbrook and the surrounding communities have really become paralyzed in fear,” said Sen. John Curran, R-Downers Grove. “We’re talking about the health and safety of the most vulnerable in our population.”
Ethylene oxide is widely used sterilization agent in the medical industry as well as other manufacturing sectors. Industry experts had previously testified that shutting down even one facility like Sterigenics could lead to shortages of equipment in the region. While there are other methods of sterilizing equipment, radiation, for instance, experts from the industry as well as the Illinois EPA say they often degrade sensitive components in a way that ethylene oxide doesn’t.
The U.S. EPA will host an <a href="https://www.epa.gov/il/forms/open-house-and-public-meeting-ethylene-oxide" target="_blank">open house</a> from 3 to 6 p.m. Nov. 29 at Ashton Place, 341 75th St., Willowbrook. A community forum with a series of expert panels will follow from 7 to 10 p.m. the same day in the same place.