U.S. senators, representatives ask for air testing in Lake County

Updated 5/3/2019 5:20 PM

Lawmakers from Illinois have asked a federal agency to monitor air quality at two Lake County business to see if carcinogenic emissions exceed safe levels.

The request comes as the Lake County Health Department is set to launch a testing and monitoring program June 1 near Vantage Specialty Chemicals in Gurnee and Medline Industries in Waukegan.


The health department and other officials have been concerned about potentially harmful ethylene oxide emissions from those manufacturing facilities, and they've pushed state and federal agencies to conduct testing -- but they've gotten no help.

This week's plea to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry was made by both U.S. senators from Illinois -- Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin -- and U.S. representatives Brad Schneider, Bill Foster, Dan Lipinski, Sean Casten and Lauren Underwood.

All seven lawmakers are Democrats. The representatives serve the Chicago suburbs.

Lake County Health Department Executive Director Mark Pfister made a similar request to the agency in March.

As a result of the inaction from state and federal agencies so far, the health department opted to create a monitoring program.

Gurnee and Waukegan officials are expected to vote on contracts for the work this month.

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Ethylene oxide is a colorless gas used as a sterilizing agent for medical equipment and to manufacture industrial chemicals. The county became concerned about the emissions late last year after media reports about the sites.

Sterigenics, in West suburban Willowbrook, was shut down by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency in February over ethylene oxide air pollution.

The lawmakers who made this week's request also want the agency to determine if a public health risk exists in Gurnee and Waukegan, and for it to hold a community forum.

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