Ethylene Oxide Ban Narrowly Passes Illinois House


Chicago’s casino, pension fund consolidation and vaping restrictions were supposed to have been the highlights of the Illinois legislature’s fall veto session, the first half of which wrapped up Wednesday.

Instead, the shocking indictment of state Rep. Luis Arroyo, D-Chicago, for allegedly bribing a fellow lawmaker (who was working with the FBI and wore a wire to record the scheme), overshadowed everything else.

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Still, consequential legislation advanced, including House Bill 3888 that will lead to a prohibition of ethylene oxide, a chemical used to sterilize medical equipment.

Sterigenics recently closed its Willowbrook operations after backlash and a series of lawsuits from residents who say the plant’s EtO emissions cause cancer, but other medical sterilization plants are still in operation, including Medline in Waukegan.

“I have children that are dying, it’s just that simple. I have children that are dying. The number one cause of death in Cook County is heart disease. The number one cause of death in my community is cancer. Ethylene oxide is a Class A carcinogen. It is cancerous to people,” said state Rep. Rita Mayfield, whose district covers Waukegan and who could face a primary opponent active in fighting the plant.

Though her measure banning ethylene oxide passed the House, it was narrow and there’s an expectation it could change in the Senate.

Medline says it is installing controls that will capture 99.99% of emissions, and critics say a ban will have harmful consequences. Just last week the FDA put out an alert that there could be a shortage of sterile medical devices.

“This legislation will have significant ramifications for the health care material supply chain, and could result in shortages of sterilized devices and materials,” read a statement from the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.

The House also approved a plan (House Bill 3904) endorsed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker that will allow student athletes to get paid endorsement deals.

“This legislation will have significant ramifications for the health care material supply chain, and could result in shortages of sterilized devices and materials,” said sponsoring Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, who played baseball at Northwestern University.

Welch said he wants Illinois to be on the front line of encouraging the National Collegiate Athletic Association to change its policy (the organization this week took steps toward permitting it), and that coaches will be an important recruitment tool for college coaches.

But state Rep. Anthony DeLuca said it will make money the priority of college sports.

“I think it’s wrong, I think it’s sad … with this vote today – it’s clearly going to pass by the comments people are making – but with this vote today, you’re inserting that dagger right in the heart of amateur athletics here in Illinois,” he said during debate.

Other measures that advanced include a ban on vaping in bars and a cap on out-of-pocket costs of insulin.

Legislators return to Springfield Nov. 12 for the second half of the veto session.

The agenda could include Pritzker’s plan to merge downstate and suburban police and fire pension funds, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s aspirations for changes to the tax structure of a Chicago casino, and a flavored tobacco ban.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky


Related stories:

Illinois House Passes Bill Allowing College Athlete Endorsement Deals

Illinois House Moves to Investigate Indicted Representative

Latest Corruption Charge Has Legislators Squirming

Illinois Rep. Luis Arroyo Faces Federal Public Corruption Charge


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