Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) and State Representative Deanne Mazzochi (R-Elmhurst) introduced new legislation today that will enact new restrictions on ethylene oxide emissions and facilities that use the chemical in production.
“The tragic situation that unfolded at the Sterigenics facility last summer is proof that we must be proactive in ensuring the health and safety of our communities,” Durkin said. “This legislation will expand regulations and restrictions on ethylene oxide and shut down any facilities that are not in compliance with emissions standards, such as Sterigenics.”
House Bill 1841, known as the Matt Haller Act, will prohibit the renewal of any permits for facilities that violate federal or state standards for ethylene oxide emissions. The legislation will also prohibit new ethylene oxide medical sterilization facilities from opening within 10 miles of a school or park in counties with more than 50,000 residents and 15 miles in counties with less than 50,000 residents.
Furthermore, it prohibits the use of ethylene oxide by any facility that has had egregious violations requiring a seal order. The only exceptions are for facilities engaged in lifesaving work where no alternatives are available or the Illinois EPA certifies that the facility uses technology that produces the greatest reduction in ethylene oxide emissions.
“This bill would not be possible without the grassroots support of our communities surrounding Sterigenics. Their advocacy made this possible,” said Chief Co-sponsor Mazzochi. “I was glad to work with Leader Durkin and others to build this comprehensive piece of legislation that will help provide peace of mind for those who are near the facility as we finally move in a productive direction.”
Another component of the legislation is to require a public notice and notice to schools, hospitals and local government officials in the event of any elevated EtO emissions levels as well as annual ambient air testing at all EtO emitting facilities.
“Ethylene oxide is toxic and causes cancer at such an alarming rate that no safe level of exposure has been identified,” Illinois Environmental Council Executive Director Jen Walling said. “We are grateful to Leader Durkin for his leadership on making Illinois a safer place to live by reducing emissions of ethylene oxide statewide.”
Matt Haller, a 45-year-old Willowbrook resident, passed away earlier this year from stage four stomach cancer. Haller lived about a mile from the Sterigenics plant with his family and was an outspoken proponent for the closure of the facility.