Yingling bill to target use of ethylene oxide

  • Sam Yingling

    Sam Yingling

  • Rita Mayfield

    Rita Mayfield

  • David McSweeney

    David McSweeney

Updated 9/9/2019 6:05 PM

State Rep. Sam Yingling plans to introduce legislation banning the use of the cancer-causing gas ethylene oxide as a sterilizer and significantly capping its use in manufacturing.

The Grayslake Democrat announced on Twitter Saturday afternoon that he was drafting the legislation. Meanwhile, state Rep. Rita Mayfield, a Waukegan Democrat, is set to announce the details of her own bill. Mayfield said she has been working with local organizations, including Stop ETO in Lake County, in drafting her plan.


The toxic gas has been in the news since February, when the Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook was closed by the state after the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry found an elevated cancer risk for people living nearby. On Friday, a DuPage County judge approved a consent order that would allow the facility to reopen if it meets strict emissions standards.

Two Lake County facilities that also use the gas -- Vantage Specialty Chemicals in Gurnee and Medline Industries in Waukegan -- have been allowed to remain open during air quality monitoring tests conducted this summer.

Yingling said his plan would put in place a cap on the use of the gas that would be much more stringent than current regulations.

"ETO is used in manufacturing a variety of products from spices to shampoo," Yingling said. "But the technology exists to substantially reduce the amount of ETO that gets used."

For example, scrubbers are designed to remove harmful substances such as ETO, he said.

State Rep. David McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican, said he has offered his support to both Yingling's and Mayfield's legislation.

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"I believe we need a statewide ban on ETO emissions to protect families from the cancer risk," McSweeney said. "I've been active and vocal in calling for a ban on the Willowbrook facility but we can't forget about the facilities in Lake County."

Several cancer patients have filed lawsuits against the three companies, saying they are responsible for their illnesses.

Yingling said his father, Tom Yingling, suffered from an aggressive bout of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

"The cancer he has is consistent with the type of cancer ETO is known to generate," Yingling said. "It certainly makes me wonder whether ETO in Lake County was an antagonist."

Yingling said he might introduce his plan in the statehouse during the legislative session that begins in late October.

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