Medical sterilizing facilities face growing scrutiny due to toxic gas concerns


Southern California air regulators are investigating several facilities that sterilize medical equipment with a carcinogenic gas after preliminary monitoring confirmed their emissions may pose an elevated cancer risk to people who work nearby.

After months of screening for chemical emissions near large commercial sterilizers in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, the South Coast Air Quality Management District has issued several violation notices for improperly handling ethylene oxide (EtO), a colorless and odorless gas used to sterilize 50% of the country’s medical supplies.

“Ethylene oxide is an exceptionally good compound at sterilizing these kinds of equipment,” said Dr. Cyrus Rangan, director of the Bureau of Toxicology and Environmental Assessment at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “The downside of it is that ethylene oxide is also a pretty powerful chemical. It’s got some carcinogenic properties. It’s one of a handful of chemicals where there’s pretty good evidence of a link to human cancer with prolonged exposure.”

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Medical Xpress, 10-08-22