Proposed Illinois bill threatens to close Medline sterilization facility

A proposed bill in Illinois could prompt the closure of a Medline Industries sterilization facility in Waukegan, Ill., according to the Chicago Tribune.

House Bill 3888 was filed last month by Democratic Rep. Rita Mayfield of Waukegan after a report showed that Medline's facility was emitting a cancer-causing chemical, ethylene oxide. The legislation would ban the use of the chemical for medical device sterilizers by 2021 and for hospitals by 2022.

Ethylene oxide is the most commonly-used chemical to sterilize medical devices, and Medline's director of public affairs, Jesse Greenberg, told the Chicago Tribune that the company has historically captured and destroyed 99 percent of ethylene oxide emissions. There is currently no viable alternative to ethylene oxide, therefore banning the chemical would likely force the facility to close.

The 715 people who work at Medline's Waukegan plant protested the bill Oct. 25, with several people telling the Chicago Tribune they've worked at the facility for decades and have never seen employees fall sick because of exposure to ethylene oxide. Medline is the largest privately held manufacturer and distributor of medical supplies in the world.

Closures of other sterilization plants this year have already prompted the FDA to warn of critical medical device shortages.

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