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 and Lake County air monitoring results

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.

If you have questions about ethylene oxide in Lake County, please contact the U.S. EPA Region 5 hotline: 312-353-2000 / 1-800-621-8431 (toll free) / r5hotline@epa.gov.

March 31, 2020 Update

On March 27, 2020 the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) announced in a press release that Medline Industries in Waukegan has successfully completed all of the requirements in P.A. 101-22, the Matt Haller Act, including testing its negative pressure and continuous monitoring systems, and stack emissions. As a result, Medline was authorized to resume full sterilization operations. The test reports can be viewed here.

The Health Department, in cooperation with the Village of Gurnee and the City of Waukegan, and funded by the IEPA, will resume air monitoring at the 12 monitoring sites in the County in the next week. This third and final phase of testing, following up on the 120 days of testing that has already occurred, will last for a period of 30 days.

March 5, 2020 Update

The final set of samples from Phase II of the ambient air monitoring for EtO has been added to the EtO Monitoring Results page.  On December 13, 2019, Medline Industries stopped EtO sterilization operations, and as of this date have not yet resumed.  Samples collected after December 13, 2019, are representative of those non-operational conditions.  As of this date, the Health Department has been informed by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) that Medline is still undergoing testing of their additional emissions controls.  After Medline has been permitted by the IEPA to resume full operations, a final 30-day period of monitoring will be conducted to provide post-control data.

February 11, 2020 Update

The Illinois EPA has announced that Medline Industries, Inc. in Waukegan will soon begin the emissions control testing regime required pursuant to P.A. 101-22, the Matt Haller Act and an IEPA construction permit. The IEPA will notify the public of testing results and any change in status of facility operations. For more details, read the IEPA Press Release.

January 27, 2020 Update

Phase II of outdoor air monitoring concluded on January 22, 2020. The Health Department expects to receive the final results mid-February and will post them to its EtO Monitoring Results page. During the second phase of monitoring, over 350 samples were collected from 12 locations on 30 sampling days. This includes 14 sampling days during the temporary shutdown of EtO operations at Medline Industries, which began December 13, 2019.

A third and final 30-day period of monitoring will begin after Medline resumes its EtO sterilization operations. The exact date depends on when the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) has tested and approved Medline’s new emissions controls and the facility is fully operational. During the final phase, samples will be collected at the same 12 sites that were monitored during the second phase.

For more details, read the press release.

January 21, 2020 Update

The Health Department has been notified that Medline Industries in Waukegan has not been operating since December 13, 2019.

December 17, 2019 Update

The Health Department has been notified that Vantage Specialty Chemicals’ continuous monitoring system is now operational, and Medline Industries’ additional emissions controls are installed and are being tested.

Previous Updates

  • 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 requested that the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) conduct a cancer incidence assessment in Lake County, similar to what was completed in DuPage County. On May 22, 2019, IDPH sent a letter to the Health Department agreeing to conduct an assessment that includes Lake County and other populations.
  • 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 Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to perform a health risk assessment based on Lake County ambient air quality monitoring results. On April 10, 2019, the ATSDR agreed to complete the health risk assessment.
  • The Village of Gurnee, City of Waukegan, and Lake County 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 were shared between the three entities (33.33% per entity). The Health Department managed the project.
  • In partnership with the Health Department, the Village of Gurnee and City of Waukegan hired GHD Services, Inc to conduct one month of air monitoring. Monitoring began the week of June 3, 2019 and concluded the first week of July 2019. Samples were collected from 10 sites every third day for one month, and additional samples were collected on random dates. Locations of the sites were selected based on U.S. EPA recommendations.
  • Medline and Vantage also conducted independent air monitoring in June and July.
  • In June, the IEPA issued a construction permit to Medline Industries in Waukegan that requires additional controls and requirements to significantly reduce emissions from the facility. Recently passed Illinois law places new requirements on Medline and Vantage for greater monitoring and emissions controls.
  • The Health Department forwarded air monitoring results from its joint program with Village of Gurnee and City of Waukegan, along with the Medline and Vantage results, to the ATSDR and U.S. EPA with the request for an expedited health risk assessment. Results have also been sent to the IEPA who has regulatory authority over ethylene oxide emissions. Once the health risk assessment is complete, the Health Department has asked that the ATSDR, U.S. EPA, and IEPA send representatives to host a public forum and explain the results to our residents.
  • On October 2, 2019, State Senator Melinda Bush hosted a Multi-Agency Informational Town Hall on Ethylene Oxide at the College of Lake County in Grayslake. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) presented to the public, followed by a question and answer session. The Village of Gurnee has provided a link to the town hall video here: https://youtu.be/qCbltfG7mH4.
  • The second phase of outdoor air monitoring for ethylene oxide (EtO) began the week of October 21, 2019 and concluded January 22, 2020. In partnership with the Lake County Health Department and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), the Village of Gurnee and City of Waukegan contracted GHD Services, Inc. to conduct an additional 90-day period of air monitoring to determine levels of ethylene oxide (EtO) in the air.

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 an 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 monitoring 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 informed the placement of air monitoring 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 monitoring.
  • 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 monitoring.
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.
June 4, 2019
June 7, 2019
June 11, 2019
June 17, 2019
  • Health Department receives a draft summary of the air monitoring data from GHD Services, Inc.
  • Health Department officials participate in conference call with U.S. EPA, IEPA, ATSDR, Village of Gurnee, and City of Waukegan regarding Quality Assurance / Quality Control (QA/QC) of air monitoring results. 
  • Village of Gurnee and City of Waukegan approve intergovernmental agreements with IEPA regarding additional funding for air monitoring.
June 19, 2019
  • Health Department officials participate in conference call with U.S. EPA, GHD Services, Inc., and laboratory regarding QA/QC of air monitoring results.
June 20, 2019
  • Health Department receives air monitoring reports from GHD Services, Inc. for samples collected June 6-10, 2019. Reports sent to IEPA and U.S. EPA for review.
June 21, 2019
  • Health Department sends initial air monitoring results to Village of Gurnee, City of Waukegan, and posts to Health Department website.
July 8, 2019
  • Health Department officials attend meeting hosted by the U.S. EPA to provide information and answer questions from representatives of Stop EtO in Lake County group.
July 19, 2019
  • Health Department officials participate in conference call with U.S. EPA, IEPA, GHD to review air monitoring data.
August 7, 2019
  • Health Department officials participate in conference call with U.S. EPA, IEPA, GHD to review air monitoring data.
August 13, 2019
August 14, 2019
  • Final air monitoring results received and posted to the Health Department’s website.
August 22, 2019
  • Health Department officials participate in conference call with U.S. EPA, ATSDR, and IEPA to discuss Lake County 30-day air monitoring results and next steps, including a public forum.
August 27, 2019
  • Health Department officials participate in conference call with ATSDR regarding results and next steps, including a public forum.
September 3, 2019
  • Health Department officials participate in conference call with ATSDR regarding air monitoring results and next steps, including a public forum.
September 9, 2019
  • Health Department officials participate in conference call with ATSDR regarding air monitoring results and next steps, including a public forum.
September 10, 2019
September 16, 2019
  • Illinois State Senator Melinda Bush, Lake County Board Chair Sandra Hart, and Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham host a press conference at the Health Department announcing details of a multi-agency informational town hall on EtO as well as additional ambient air monitoring plans.
October 2, 2019
  • Health Department officials attend State Senator Melinda Bush’s Multi-Agency Informational Town Hall on Ethylene Oxide at the College of Lake County, Grayslake. 
October 21, 2019
  • Village of Gurnee and City of Waukegan approve intergovernmental agreements with IEPA regarding additional funding for air monitoring.

October 26, 2019
  • Phase II of outdoor air monitoring for EtO begins at 12 sites near the Vantage and Medline facilities.
November 5, 2019
  • Health Department Executive Director presents at the 2019 Air Quality Management Conference, hosted by the Air & Waste Management Association in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois.
November 25, 2019
  • Health Department receives first set of results from the second phase of air monitoring for EtO.
November 26, 2019
  • Health Department shares first set of Phase II air monitoring results with partners and posts them to the public EtO Monitoring Results webpage.
December 17, 2019
  • Vantage Specialty Chemicals notifies the Health Department that their continuous emissions monitoring system is operational.
  • Medline Industries notifies Health Department that their additional emissions controls are installed and being tested.
January 12, 2020
  • Meeting held at the Warren Newport Public Library to discuss the UIC School of Public Health blood sampling study results presented by Dr. Susan Buchanan of UIC.
  • Health Department Executive Director attends public meeting and answers public questions.