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.

October 9, 2019 Update

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.

If you missed the meeting, the Village of Gurnee has provided a link to the town hall video here: https://youtu.be/qCbltfG7mH4

September 16, 2019 Update

The IEPA has committed to fund a second round of ambient air monitoring in Lake County near Medline Industries in Waukegan and Vantage Specialty Chemicals in Gurnee. The Health Department, Village of Gurnee and City of Waukegan plan to conduct an additional 90-day period of monitoring with IEPA funds, expected to begin in October 2019. The Health Department will manage the project.

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.
  • State Senator Melinda Bush hosted a Multi-Agency Informational Town Hall on Ethylene Oxide on Wednesday, October 2, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the College of Lake County, Auditorium A011, 19351 W Washington St., Grayslake. The IEPA and ATSDR presented to the public.

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 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.