EPA announced they need 29 sterilization facilities to report on their ethylene oxide emissions by Jan. 2. One of them is in Atlanta.
ATLANTA – On Dec. 27, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its plan to expand its Toxic Inventory (TRI) reporting requirements to include 29 sterilization facilities that currently do not report their use of a cancer-causing chemical. One of them is in Atlanta, GA.
Sterigenics, a medical sterilization company in Smyrna, is one of 29 contracted sterilization facilities that report no release of the toxic chemical ethylene oxide (EtO).
According to industry estimates, the toxic chemical is used in about half of the US medical products that require sterilization. It is also used to make other chemicals, such as antifreeze.
EPA’s purpose with the TRI reporting requirements is to shed some light on potential exposures from chemical use.
“For too long, many communities in this country, especially those with environmental justice concerns, have been at risk of exposure to EtO without even knowing it,” said Michal Freedhoff, assistant administrator for the Bureau of Chemical Safety and Prevention. of Pollution, in a press release. .
In 2016, EPA moved EtO from a list of chemicals likely to cause cancer to a list of chemicals that definitely caused cancer. It was found to be 30 times more likely to cause certain cancers than scientists had ever known.
This is not the first time that the use of EtO has been flagged by Sterigenics for being unreported.
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In 2019, WebMD and Georgia Health News released an article informing several metropolitan Atlanta communities that they had been exposed to the cancer-causing chemical.
Georgians affected by EtO learned about the chemical through the WebMD article a year after it happened. According to WebMD, the EPA and state regulatory agencies have never released information about high-risk spots across the country.
Local news outlets, including 11Alive, followed suit and reported on the matter.
More than four dozen employees have filed a lawsuit alleging that a medical sterilization company and affiliated company exposed them to dangerous levels of a known carcinogen.
The lawsuit, filed May 19 in Cobb County, names Sterigenics, its parent company, Sotera Health, ConMed and others as defendants and seeks damages for alleged “ethylene oxide poisoning.”
Most involve people who live or have ever lived near the plants, who claim the gas made them sick, caused cancer, birth defects, or death.
Employees in facilities that use EtO and people in communities — including historically disadvantaged communities — located adjacent to these facilities are most likely to be exposed to EtO, according to the EPA.
Children are expected to be more susceptible to the toxic effects of EtO.
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The 29 facilities asked to report their EtO use are likely to exceed the £10,000 per year “other-used” TRI reporting threshold for EtO.
The determination to extend TRI reporting requirements to these 29 facilities is part of an ongoing effort to increase publicly available information about EtO releases and other waste management activities.