Ethylene oxide air testing to begin this week in Lake County

Outdoor air monitoring to determine levels of the chemical ethylene oxide is set to begin this week in Gurnee and Waukegan, Lake County officials said Monday.

The Lake County Health Department, the village of Gurnee and city of Waukegan have hired GHD Services, Inc. to conduct 30 days of air monitoring near Vantage Specialty Chemicals in Gurnee and Medline Industries in Waukegan, health department officials said in a news release.

"We are eager for the air monitoring results and look forward to reporting back to our community," said Mark Pfister, executive director of the Lake County Health Department and Community Health Center. "For a health risk analysis to be completed by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and potential future action to be taken by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), we need to know what levels of EtO (ethylene oxide) are present in the air."

Ten air monitors are being placed in the county at four sites near Medline, four sites near Vantage, and at two remote locations, which will provide background levels of ethylene oxide. The monitors pose no health risks to residents, officials said in the release.

Monitoring locations were chosen based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency air monitoring siting criteria and factors, including meteorological data, facility emissions and property accessibility.

Samples will be collected every third day for 30 days, with additional samples collected on random dates. Monitoring canisters will be sent to a laboratory for analysis, and the first results are expected within a few weeks.

When the testing program was announced last month, Gurnee resident and Stop ETO in Lake County member Tea Tanaka said group members are glad testing will be done, but they want it to be conducted for longer than the 30-day period.

Tanaka had said the group is afraid the companies being tested will reduce the amount of ethylene oxide they normally use during the test period.

Once monitoring results are received, data will be shared with Gurnee and Waukegan officials, then sent to the U.S. EPA, ATSDR, Illinois Department of Public Health and IEPA, which has regulatory authority over ethylene oxide emissions permitting in Illinois.

Results also will be shared with the public via the health department's Web page,, which includes answers to frequently asked questions, detailed information about the county's actions related to ethylene oxide, and contact information for the government agencies involved.

ATSDR has agreed to conduct a health risk assessment for Lake County based on the results, and health department officials have petitioned the IDPH to complete a cancer incidence assessment similar to the Willowbrook report released March 29. In February, results gathered from a similar 30-day testing period of the air near the Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook led to the plant being shut down by the IEPA.

Since November, the health department, Gurnee and Waukegan have urged the U.S. EPA to conduct air monitoring and conduct a town-hall meeting in Lake County.

Gurnee, Waukegan, and Lake County are sharing the cost of the independent air monitoring program. The health department is managing the project.

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

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