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) / [email protected].
November 19, 2021 Update
On November 19, 2021, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) published a cancer incidence study for Lake County, Illinois. The study was completed in response to the public’s concern of two facilities, Medline Industries, Inc. in Waukegan and Vantage Specialty Chemicals in Gurnee, that emit ethylene oxide (EtO). The Lake County Health Department has requested that the IDPH hosts a public forum to explain the study’s findings to Lake County residents, but it has not been scheduled at this time.
For a detailed description of the findings and for frequently asked questions, visit the IDPH’s webpage IDPH Cancer Assessment, Lake County, Illinois. For inquiries regarding the study, please contact the IDPH.
September 29, 2021 Update
On September 29, 2021, John Mooney, Director of the Air and Radiation Division at U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 5, responded to the April 14, 2021 letter from Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart and Board of Health President Tim Sashko requesting immediate action on the completion of a health risk assessment and consultation.
May 21, 2021 Update
On May 20, 2021, Elizabeth Irvin-Barnwell, the Director of the Office of Community Health and Hazard Assessment at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), responded to the April 14, 2021 letter from Lake County Board Chair Hart and Board of Health President Tim Sashko requesting immediate action on the completion of a health risk assessment/consultation. In the response, Director Irvin-Barnwell explained that technical issues with assuring the quality of the data “contributed to an unanticipated delay in completing the health consultation,” but confirmed that “ATSDR has now worked through those technical issues and is working to finalize the data analysis to support its evaluation.” Irvin-Barnwell also confirmed that the “ATSDR is committed to completing the health consultation report and to communicating its findings and any appropriate recommendations to the citizens of Lake County as soon as it is confident in the completeness of its assessment.”
May 13, 2021 Update
On May 12, 2021, the Lake County Health Department's (LCHD) Executive Director and the Director of Environmental Health met virtually with Dr. Mark Johnson from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Dr. Johnson acknowledged that ATSDR had received the April 14, 2021 letter from Lake County Board Chair Hart and Board of Health President Tim Sashko, and indicated that work is progressing on the health risk assessment report. He confirmed that the report, which will be divided into the three monitoring phases and by each location of concern (Medline and Vantage), is nearing completion. He also stated that ATSDR has committed to complete the report and that representatives from ATSDR will be available to explain its conclusions to the people of Lake County when it is released. Once completed, Dr. Johnson indicated that the report will undergo agency review prior to release, but could not provide an estimate for the time the review will take. Additional information will be posted here as it becomes available.
Important: April 19, 2021 Update
On April 19, 2021, the Chair Sandra Hart of the Lake County Board and the President Tim Sashko of the Lake County Board of Health sent a letter, dated April 14, 2021, to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The letter requests that agency produce a risk assessment, similar to the one they produced for the Village of Willowbrook, for the people in Lake County who may be affected by emissions from Medline Industries in Waukegan and/or Vantage Specialties in Gurnee.
Also on April 19, 2021, Chair Hart and President Sashko sent a letter, dated April 14, 2021, to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), requesting the timely completion of a complete health risk assessment for Lake County or, at the very least, a Letter of Health Consultation, similar to the one they produced for the Village of Willowbrook. The Illinois Department of Public Health has agreed to conduct a cancer incidence rate study for Lake County, but they cannot proceed with that study until they have the data from a risk assessment that delineates the areas of potential higher risk.
October 23, 2020 Update
On October 23, 2020, the Lake County Health Department (LCHD) received the last set of chain of custody sheets from the ERG Lab, as requested by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). These sheets, which will assist the two agencies in their review and validation of the data, are posted by project phase on the EtO Monitoring Results page in the Lake County Air Monitoring Supporting Documents section.
October 15, 2020 Update
On October 14, 2020, the Lake County Health Department (LCHD) received a follow-up message from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicating they found one additional sample result that needed to be invalidated from the Phase III data set due to canister pressure concerns. The sample was from site V5 on April 4, 2020. The spreadsheet of Phase III sample results has been updated accordingly.
Additionally, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) pointed out that the lab sheets from November 19, 2019 were inadvertently not linked on our results page. The error has been corrected and the labs sheets for November 19, 2019 are available here.
October 14, 2020 Update
On October 13, 2020, the Lake County Health Department (LCHD) received an email from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicating that they had received information that caused them to review and invalidate one more sample from the Phase III data set. The sample was from site R2 on April 28, 2020. The spreadsheet of Phase III sample results has been updated accordingly.
October 13, 2020 Update
On October 9, 2020, the Lake County Health Department (LCHD) updated this page with additional information received from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That update referenced field sheets and various lab data that we had received and provided to the EPA for their analysis of the data. LCHD has received a request for the information we received from the field contractor (GHD Services, Inc.), and from the laboratory (Eastern Research Group), and we anticipate that there may be others.
Some of the files are large, so facilitate easy access to this information, we are posting the files on our EtO Monitoring Results page.
October 9, 2020 Update
On June 16, 2020, the Lake County Health Department (LCHD) posted the last set of results from the final phase (Phase III) of EtO air monitoring, which included samples collected between April 4 and May 7, 2020.
In the last data set, there were five sample results that the analyzing laboratory (Eastern Research Group) noted as “possible void” due to the amount of vacuum pressure measured in the canister at the laboratory. LCHD discussed the reports with the contractor performing the air monitoring, GHD Services, Inc. GHD made the professional decision to invalidate and not report these results. Because the canister pressures measured at the lab were outside of what is required by the test methodology (Method TO-15), they could not be validated.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency air test methods can be viewed here:
The lab sheets with the results were posted, and the compiled spreadsheet on the LCHD web page indicated the following result: “Not reported = Sample result not reported; remaining pressure in canister was outside test method parameters.” The posted maps provided by GHD did not report the invalidated results.
Based on the five “not reported” sample results and other inquiries received, including from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease registry (ATSDR), Stop EtO Lake County, and Vantage Specialty Chemicals, LCHD reached out to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for assistance in reviewing the Phase III sample set to verify the results’ validity. The EPA has provided a great deal of technical support to this air monitoring effort, so LCHD once again sought their expertise in reviewing the data. LCHD sent the formal request to the U.S. EPA on September 2, 2020.
The EPA indicated that they needed additional quality control/assurance information from the laboratory and contractor to conduct a comprehensive review. LCHD was also in communication with the ATSDR, and they requested the additional information as well. To obtain the information, LCHD requested instrument calibration data, chromatographs from the sample analyses, field collection and chain-of-custody sheets. All of this information was collected and provided to the EPA and ATSDR for Phase III; receipt of the laboratory chain-of-custody sheets for Phase I and II (which contain the original canister pressure from the laboratory) is pending.
Having received all of the information for Phase III, the EPA reviewed of all of the pressure data “blind to reported EtO concentrations,” and developed conclusions regarding the validity of the results. The EPA’s conclusions are included in this letter, which LCHD received on October 6, 2020. As a result of this review by the EPA, the sample data table for Phase III on our web site was updated to incorporate the EPA’s findings.
The EPA’s letter did not address the five sample results that were “not reported” by GHD Services Inc., as they reviewed only reported results, but a follow-up email exchange with the EPA indicated that the agency concurs with the earlier determination by GHD to invalidate the five sample results because the canister pressures were outside of required method parameters.
LCHD will continue to work with the EPA and the ATSDR, as well as the Illinois EPA, to assist them in any way we can. The complete quality assured/quality-controlled monitoring dataset (Phase I – III) will be reviewed by the ATSDR for their health risk assessment. The Illinois Department of Public Health has also agreed to then conduct a cancer incidence rate study after the health risk assessment is completed.
June 16, 2020 Update
The Lake County Health Department (LCHD) has received the final set of Phase III air monitoring results. Results are posted to the Air Monitoring Results spreadsheet.
This final set of data concludes the monitoring program that was initiated on June 6, 2019, by the Lake County Health Department, the Village of Gurnee, and the City of Waukegan.
The complete set of data includes 606 samples collected over 120 days on 54 separate days, as well as 58 additional samples collected by Medline and Vantage. These results have been provided to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) for further analysis and the production of health risk assessments.
April 13, 2020 Update
Since Phase III of air monitoring began on April 4, 2020, four sampling events (days) have been conducted. It is now anticipated that monitoring will conclude in May, once all 10 sampling events have been completed.
April 4, 2020 Update
The Health Department, in cooperation with the Village of Gurnee and the City of Waukegan, with funding from the IEPA, has resumed air monitoring at 12 sites in the county. The Health Department expects to receive the final results from the third phase of monitoring in May and will post them to this website once they are received.
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.
- 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
|November 2, 2018|
|November 6, 2018|
|November 7, 2018|
|November 9, 2018|
|November 13, 2018|
|November 16, 2018|
|November 19, 2018|
|November 20, 2018|
|November 21, 2018|
|November 27, 2018|
|November 28, 2018|
|December 19, 2018|
|December 26, 2018|
|January 3, 2019|
|January 7, 2019|
|January 17, 2019|
|January 25, 2019|
|January 28, 2019|
|February 4, 2019|
|February 15, 2019|
|February 21, 2019|
|February 22, 2019|
|February 25, 2019|
|February 28, 2019|
|March 1, 2019|
|March 8, 2019|
|March 19, 2019|
|March 26, 2019|
|March 29, 2019|
|April 2, 2019|
|April 3, 2019|
|April 9, 2019|
|April 12, 2019|
|April 24, 2019|
|May 7, 2019|
|May 10, 2019|
|May 20, 2019|
|May 22, 2019|
|June 4, 2019|
|June 7, 2019|
|June 11, 2019|
|June 17, 2019|
|June 19, 2019|
|June 20, 2019|
|June 21, 2019|
|July 8, 2019|
|July 19, 2019|
|August 7, 2019|
|August 13, 2019|
|August 14, 2019|
|August 22, 2019|
|August 27, 2019|
|September 3, 2019|
|September 9, 2019|
|September 10, 2019|
|September 16, 2019|
|October 2, 2019|
|October 21, 2019|
|October 26, 2019|
|November 5, 2019|
|November 25, 2019|
|November 26, 2019|
|December 17, 2019|
|January 12, 2020|