House Passes Ban on Ethylene Oxide in IL Hospitals

By Benjamin Cox on November 2, 2019 at 5:43pm

The Illinois House passed a bill to phase out a sterilization agent in hospitals. The decision drew ire from two major organizations in the state yesterday. House Bill 3888 phases out ethylene oxide in Illinois’ medical settings passed with the bare minimum of 60 votes on Thursday.

Illinois Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Todd Maisch said the effect of the bill will be a shortage of sterilized equipment in emergencies for hospitals: “It’s a healthcare issue for Jacksonville. It’s a healthcare issue for everybody statewide because ethylene oxide is the most effective way to sterilize all sorts of medical equipment and products. If you’ve got a family member going in for surgery, you want to make sure that you have sterile products in the hospital. If you enact this ban as the House wants to per the vote this week, you don’t know where sterile products are going to come from. If you’re going to be in the hospital or in the doctor’s office, just know that ethylene oxide does the majority of sterilization and works by far the best. It’s a balance issue and if you go ahead and ban it without a plan for where you’re going to get sterile medical equipment, you’re just setting up all sorts of potential problems for healthcare making it not as safe as it would be otherwise.”

Medline, who supplies the compound to hospitals, said it would also be continuing discussions with Illinois State Senators in regards to sterilization of Illinois’ hospitals. Medline also said that they are implementing new procedures at their Waukegan facility to capture any adverse emissions in regards to the manufacture of the product for more environmental safety. Medline serves about 80% of the state’s hospitals with the product. The Illinois Manufacturer’s Association were equally worried about the economic as well as the health care impacts that a shortage of sterile medical equipment would produce.

Many representatives voted “present” on the bill on the House floor Thursday rather than taking a stance. The Sterigenics lab in Lake County and emissions from other ethylene oxide makers had been a source of controversy in the General Assembly and with the Governor’s office due to the compound’s link to cancer at manufacturing sites. The Senate will take a vote on the House bill later this week.