Michigan and ten other states are urging the U.S. EPA to set stricter limits on emissions of a known carcinogen called ethylene oxide, or EtO. The chemical is used to sterilize medical equipment. In a letter to the EPA, state attorneys general say the agency is six years behind schedule in setting stricter limits on EtO. The chemical is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer, among other health issues.
We are concerned that the standards for EtO, a flammable and highly reactive gas, fail to adequately protect workers and communities from this toxic chemical for which acute exposure risks include respiratoryirritation and lung injury, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath, andcyanosis, and chronic exposure risks include cancer, reproductive effects, mutagenic changes,and neurotoxicity. We urge EPA to propose revised standards that adequately protect public health and the environment from the well-documented risks posed by EtO emissions. We also call on the EPA to work with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to support research into effective alternatives to EtO sterilization and end the over-reliance on the practice.
In Michigan, Viant, a medical equipment company, recently voluntarily agreed to stop using EtO. That was after tests showed EtO concentrations above existing federal emissions standards.