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Testing Continues In Lake County After 10 Locations Test Positive For Ethylene Oxide

CHICAGO (CBS) -- From DuPage County to Lake County, testing shows ethylene oxide at 10 locations near Gurnee and Waukegan.

One of the testing sites is in Park City where an air monitor picked up ethylene oxide. And it's far from the only one, which makes residents in the area nervous.

Tea and Soh Tanaka are concerned about their neighbors and their young daughters. They are leading a grass roots effort to eliminate the threat of ethylene oxide.

"They are four miles from here," Tea Tanaka said. "We are equal distance from both of them. My children's school is two miles, and I also work two miles from Medline."

Medline Industries in Waukegan and Vantage Speciality Chemicals in Gurnee both are emitting ethylene oxide, also known as ETO.

Early this month, Lake County, along with the Waukegan and Gurnee city governments, set up testing sites to find how much ethylene oxide was in the air.

"We picked up ethylene oxide in every sample that we tested," Lake County's Larry Mackey said.

All ten locations include four near Medline, four near Vantage and two at remote sites.

"At the end of the day, no emission of ETO are safe to breathe," Tanaka said.

When asked how concerned people should be, Mackey responded stating, "people should always be concerned about their health and that's why we're doing this sampling program."

"I found out yesterday one of my friends has breast cancer," Tanaka said. "We need a cancer study to be done for Lake County."

A cancer study is coming. But first, testing in Lake County will continue through early July and that information will be shared with the Illinois Department of Public Health.

"The preliminary tests are not conclusive in any way to develop any sort of health risk assessment at this point, but that's why we're collecting data over a long period of time," Mackey said. "More work to be done. We're going to continuing our monitoring program."

Vantage said it recently installed new emissions control equipment, which is now being tested with oversight from the Illinois EPA. The company is exploring other ways reduce emissions.

Medline said it has two emissions control systems operating at more than 99% efficiency. It released the following statement:

"The initial ambient air data released was collected before the first stage of our newest emissions controls were installed. With that installation now complete, Medline has finished the first step to having one of the strongest emission control programs in the nation. We remain confident that the additional emission control systems we have begun to install will substantially reduce our facility's emissions.

While ambient air testing is influenced by many other sources such as the heavy diesel truck traffic around our facility, we believe the improvements we have already made will be evident in future tests.

A far more accurate measure of EO emissions is stack testing, which will be conducted later this summer and annually thereafter. Stack testing can pinpoint actual EO emissions from the plant, which is far more accurate. Once the new abatement equipment is installed, the community can expect even lower levels of emissions, as these will control more than 99.9% of all EO used. The new, redundant, best-available controls are modeled to reduce the risk to the lowest level recognized by the EPA.

As a long-standing member of the Waukegan and Lake County communities, our commitment to where we live and work is as deep as our roots here. Our investment to ensure these best-available controls are an example of our dedication to our neighbors and employees."


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