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Lawmakers opt for full ethylene oxide ban by 2022

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Illinois lawmakers scrapped an effort to allow local governments to ban the use of a controversial sterilization agent in favor of an all-out ban on the chemical. 

Should Waukegan Democrat Rita Mayfield’s legislation become law, it would effectively ban the use of ethylene oxide in Illinois by 2022.

Mayfield said a company in her district that used ethylene oxide had made people sick. 

“I have children that are dying,” she said. “The No. 1 cause of death in Cook County is heart disease. The No. 1 cause of death in my county is cancer.”

State Rep. Dan Caulkins said the measure will have far-reaching consequences that will affect more than just the medical industry.

“This makes it virtually impossible to use ethylene oxide in the state of Illinois,” he said.

Lawmakers left House Republican Leader Jim Durkin’s bill which would have left the decision to local governments in committee. Durkin said the decision was political. 

“The actions taken today by the House Democrats to block my legislation that would allow local municipalities to ban the use of ethylene oxide just proves they put partisan politics ahead of the health and safety of Illinois residents, including their own constituents,” he said in a statement. 

The Illinois Chamber of Commerce criticized the bill’s passage. 

“This legislation will have significant ramifications for the health care material supply chain, and could result in shortages of sterilized devices and materials, despite the fact that Illinois passed the most stringent regulatory scheme in the nation earlier this year,” Illinois Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Todd Maisch said.

Medline, a Northfield-based company that makes and distributes medical products, also criticized the measure.

“Medline’s 700 team members in Waukegan produce and sterilize more than 16,000 sterile surgical packs per day used by 135 hospitals in Illinois – nearly 80% of the state’s hospitals,” company spokesperson Jesse Greenberg said in a statement. “And as the FDA stated on October 25, banning EtO for medical device sterilization could create a shortage of life-saving sterile surgical kits to treat patients. Contrary to what anti-EtO advocates suggest, [ethylene oxide] is the only globally accepted, FDA-approved method to sterilize many medical products that are essential to public health.”