SPRINGFIELD (IRN) — A measure that would have phased out the use of ethylene oxide failed to advance Wednesday, but sponsors of the legislation to ban the use of the cancer-causing chemical plan start fresh in 2020.
House Bill 3888 would have phased out the use of ethylene oxide in sterilization facilities by 2021 and in hospitals by 2022. Opponents said it would have caused medical device shortages and difficulties for manufacturing facilities that use the chemical. The measure also would have put bans on locating facilities that do use the chemical near residential areas.
The measure narrowly passed in the House of Representatives last month, but state Sen. John Curran, R-Woodridge, wasn’t able to get enough support to push the measure out of the Senate Executive Committee on Wednesday.
Lawmakers heard clashing narratives from impassioned supporters, environmentalists and industry experts.
“I have one side telling me that this is going to impact jobs, this is going to impact the sterilization of medical equipment and I have the other side coming to me saying that ‘if I do not support this, it is going to be on my shoulders that I am going to be killing children,” said Sen. Linda Holmes, whose explanation for why she wouldn’t support the bill was cited by others.
Once it became clear that the bill wasn’t destined to move forward, Curran pledged to start again in the spring.
The apparent death of the bill brought praise from industry representatives who had all along said the process was rushed and would have had negative consequences.
“As recently noted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the number of facilities using ethylene oxide to sterilize medical equipment is limited and additional closures could result in years of shortages of critical medical devices,” said Mark Denzler, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.
Illinois already has what industry representatives and environmentalists alike have said are the strictest regulations on the use and emission of the widely-used sterilization chemical that has been found to be more of a cancer threat than previously thought.