The Environmental Protection Agency is warning residents who live near medical sterilizing plants in 13 states and Puerto Rico about potential health risks from emissions of ethylene oxide, a chemical widely used in their operations.
Laredo, Texas; Ardmore, Oklahoma; and Lakewood, Colorado, are among the communities facing the highest risk from ethylene oxide emissions, EPA said.
The agency has notified 23 commercial sterilizers — 19 in the continental U.S. and four in Puerto Rico — that their operations pose an elevated risk of cancer and other ailments. The notice follows a recent survey of emissions data from almost 100 commercial sterilizers nationwide.
Ethylene oxide is used to clean everything from catheters to syringes, pacemakers and plastic surgical gowns.
While short-term or infrequent exposure to ethylene oxide does not appear
to pose a health risk, EPA said long-term or lifetime exposure to the chemical could lead to a variety of health impacts, including lymphoma and breast cancer. EPA said it is working with commercial sterilizers to take appropriate steps to reduce emissions.
The Hill, 3-08-22