Ethylene Oxide in Lake County

On November 2, 2018, the Lake County Health Department learned of concerns surrounding ethylene oxide emissions from Medline Industries in Waukegan and Vantage Specialty Chemicals in Gurnee. 

The Health Department immediately initiated communication with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to better understand the situation and express the public’s desire for appropriate air monitoring and timely and transparent communication. The Health Department has maintained regular communication with these agencies, which have sole jurisdiction for regulating emissions.

This web page includes information about Health Department activities related to ethylene oxide emissions. The Health Department will continue to use all available resources to protect the health of Lake County residents and will continue to share information as it becomes available.

Residents seeking information about ethylene oxide in Lake County can find the latest updates on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) web page. Questions and concerns should be sent via email to the U.S. EPA at eto@epa.gov.

Known Information as of May 24, 2019

  • As a result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to IEPA, the Health Department received data that indicates that the current and past emissions from both Vantage and Medline are below the prescribed limits in their permits.
  • The Health Department has requested that the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) conduct cancer incidence analyses in Lake County, similar to that being completed in DuPage County.
  • The Health Department, Village of Gurnee and City of Waukegan are continuing to urge the U.S. EPA to conduct air testing and a public forum in Lake County.
  • The Health Department formally petitioned the National Center for Environmental Health / Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to perform a health risk assessment based on ambient air quality sampling results, which are expected to be collected in June 2019 by a vendor to be hired by Village of Gurnee, City of Waukegan, and Lake County. On April 10, 2019, ATSDR agreed to complete the health risk assessment.
  • The Village of Gurnee, City of Waukegan, and Lake County have signed an intergovernmental agreement to conduct ethylene oxide (EtO) ambient air sampling near Vantage Specialty Chemicals in Gurnee and Medline Industries in Waukegan. The costs for testing will be shared between the three entities (33.33% per entity). The Health Department will manage the project. 
  • The Village of Gurnee and City of Waukegan have hired GHD Services, Inc to conduct one month of sampling, set to begin around June 1, 2019. 
  • Based on recommendations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), samples will be collected from four sites around each location, and at two remote sites which will provide background levels of EtO. Sampling will occur every third day for one month.
    • The number and placement of sampling sites, as well as the frequency and duration of sampling, will follow U.S. EPA protocol to assure that the results can be utilized for health risk assessment. 
    • The U.S. EPA has completed modeling for the selection of the sampling locations, and presented their results to the Health Department on May 10, 2019.  

Timeline of Events

DateActions
November 2, 2018
  • Chicago Tribune publishes article identifying Vantage Chemical and Medline Industries as emission sources of Ethylene Oxide (EtO) 
  • Lake County Health Department staff contacts DuPage County Health Department to learn from their experience with Sterigenics in Willowbrook 
  • Health Department establishes contact with the Regional Director/Toxicologist from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) who published initial report on EtO in Willowbrook 
  • Health Department establishes contact with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Illinois EPA (IEPA) as they have sole jurisdiction over emissions regulation
November 6, 2018
  • Health Department Executive Director presents to Lake County Board, Health Community Services Committee
  • Health Department publishes an EtO emissions fact sheet based on preliminary information and shares with Lake County Board
November 7, 2018
  • Health Department conducts a conference call with U.S. EPA, U.S. EPA Region 5, ATSDR, and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH)
  • Health Department urges U.S. EPA to create Lake County-specific web page to keep the public informed
  • Health Department learns that:
    • U.S. EPA Region 5 began conducting on-site inspections for both companies in September 2018
    • Mitigation controls would be voluntarily implemented by both companies to reduce EtO emissions
    • Vantage will voluntarily perform ambient air testing after control implementation
November 9, 2018
  • Health Department submits Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to IEPA for actual emissions, permitted emission levels, and record of violations from Medline and Vantage
  • Health Department Executive Director presents to Lake County Board, Committee of the Whole
November 13, 2018
  • Health Department Executive Director presents to Lake County Board
November 16, 2018
  • Health Department conducts conference call with IEPA and expresses the public’s concerns
November 19, 2018
  • Health Department Executive Director presents at Waukegan City Council meeting
November 20, 2018
  • Health Department receives the FOIA response from IEPA
  • Health Department staff members create a summary of permitted and reported EtO emissions and violations that occurred
November 21, 2018
  • U.S. EPA publishes Lake County-specific web page
November 27, 2018
  • Health Department officials conduct a site visit to Medline facility to better understand the situation and express the public’s concerns
November 28, 2018
  • Health Department officials attend a meeting at U.S. EPA with local elected officials
  • Health Department Executive Director presents at Lake County Board of Health meeting
December 19, 2018
  • Health Department officials conduct a site visit to Vantage Facility to better understand the situation and express the public’s concerns
December 26, 2018
  • Partial federal shutdown begins (including U.S. EPA)
January 3, 2019
  • Health Department updates EtO emissions fact sheet and shares with Lake County Board
January 7, 2019
  • Health Department requests U.S. EPA update web page to keep residents informed
January 17, 2019
  • Health Department participates in a conference call with IEPA, Village of Gurnee, and City of Waukegan where the village and city express the public’s concerns
January 25, 2019
  • Partial federal government shutdown ends
January 28, 2019
  • Health Department officials present to the Gurnee Village Board
February 4, 2019
  • Health Department officials present to the Waukegan City Council
February 15, 2019
  • Letter issued from Brad Schneider, Tammy Duckworth, Lauren Underwood, and Richard Durbin to Bill Wehrum, Assistant Administrator of U.S. EPA requesting air testing in Lake County
February 21, 2019
  • U.S. EPA updates Lake County-specific web page to include additional information
February 22, 2019
  • Health Department conducts call with U.S. EPA Region 5
  • Health Department learns that:
    • Region 5 has not received approval from U.S. EPA Headquarters to conduct air monitoring or a town hall meeting in Lake County
February 25, 2019
  • Health Department, Village of Gurnee, and City of Waukegan officials meet to discuss independent ambient air monitoring if there is no action from the U.S. EPA
February 28, 2019
  • Health Department Executive Director meets with IEPA Director John Kim, Senator Melinda Bush, Village of Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik and City of Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham to discuss ambient air monitoring in Lake County
March 1, 2019
  • Health Department participates in conference call with ATSDR and other stakeholders from the medical community to discuss organizing a public educational event for healthcare providers regarding EtO health risks.
March 8, 2019
  • Health Department participates in call with U.S. EPA Region 5 to discuss technical aspects of ambient air monitoring.
March 19, 2019
  • Health Department sends draft plan for ambient air monitoring to U.S. EPA for review.
March 26, 2019
  • Health Department Executive Director formally petitions ATSDR to perform a health risk assessment based on ambient EtO air quality sampling results.
March 29, 2019
April 2, 2019
April 3, 2019
  • Health Department officials meet with Village of Gurnee and City of Waukegan to discuss ambient air monitoring plan.
April 9, 2019
  • Health Department Executive Director presents to the Lake County Board on the preliminary plan for ambient air monitoring.
April 12, 2019
  • Health Department meets with Village of Gurnee, IEPA, and Vantage officials to learn about Vantage's air monitoring plans.
April 24, 2019
  • Health Department officials present to Woodland School District 50 school board.
May 7, 2019
  • Health Department, IDPH, Illinois Academy of Family Physicians, UIC School of Public Health, ATSDR, and Advocate Condell Medical Center host an educational event, "Ethylene Oxide: Building Awareness for Primary Care Physicians & Other Clinicians" to discuss the scientific and medical issues related to EtO emissions.
May 10, 2019
  • Health Department participates in conference call with U.S. EPA to review modeling results, which will inform the placement of air sampling sites.
May 20, 2019
  • Health Department Executive Director presents to Gurnee Village Board.
  • Village of Gurnee approves the intergovernmental agreement between Village of Gurnee, City of Waukegan, and Lake County, as well as the contract hiring GHC Services, Inc. to conduct air sampling.
  • City of Waukegan approves the intergovernmental agreement between Village of Gurnee, City of Waukegan, and Lake County, as well as the contract hiring GHC Services, Inc. to conduct air sampling.
May 22, 2019
  • Lake County Health Department Board of Health ratifies the intergovernmental agreement (IGA) between the Village of Gurnee, City of Waukegan, and Lake County.

Residents seeking information about ethylene oxide in Lake County can find the latest updates on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) web page. Questions and concerns should be sent via email to the U.S. EPA at eto@epa.gov.