EPA Names 23 High-Risk Ethylene Oxide Facilities Across the Country

The commercial sterilizer is an aggressive carcinogen and disparately manufactured near communities of color


Erin Fitzgerald, efitzgerald@earthjustice.org

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that as a result of an information collection request that they conducted, they have found that that there are 23 high-risk ethylene oxide sterilizer facilities that have a cancer-risk rate above EPA’s 100-in-a-million unacceptable risk rate. This includes a facility in Laredo, TX, where Earthjustice have been working with a local organization to address risks posed by a sterilizer facility near an elementary school. This assessment will help inform EPA’s upcoming rulemaking aimed at reducing ethylene oxide emissions and their impact on nearby communities.

Ethylene oxide is a colorless, typically odorless flammable gas that is used to make other chemicals, plastic, and to sterilize medical equipment. Ethylene oxide is also an aggressive carcinogen and the facilities that manufacture it are typically found in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

The following is a quote from Raul Garcia, legislative director for Healthy Communities at Earthjustice:

“This is an important and welcome step to increasing transparency on the toxic air pollution and health threats that sterilizer facilities pose to health of millions of Americans. Now that EPA has new information on precisely where the worst health threats are, the agency must use its full authority to ensure public health so no one gets cancer from this pollution and require fenceline monitoring at these facilities. Now, EPA must issue a strong new rule that phases out the use of ethylene oxide at commercial sterilizers. No one should get cancer from facilities that are used to sterilize equipment in the treatment of cancer.”

Earthjustice, along with Stop Sterigenics Georgia, Rio Grande International Study Center, Clean Power Lake County, and Union of Concerned Scientists applaud EPA’s announcement and transparency and look forward to continued collaboration in order to ensure the most protective standards for communities across the country. EPA will also be holding a public webinar on August 10 to understand the national scope of the risk posed by ethylene oxide. Learn more about the webinar and register.

Quotes from our clients and partners:

“Six years after EPA issued its determination that exposure to ethylene oxide causes cancer, it is finally putting its own science into action. EPA has identified the most hazardous facilities to human health and will communicate the dangers openly with impacted communities. That’s progress, but there’s more to do,” said Genna Reed, lead science and policy analyst in the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “EPA must conduct fenceline monitoring to better understand and manage the threats communities experience from ethylene oxide and from cumulative exposures to environmental hazards. Finally, they must issue strong rules and enforce these protections to keep people living, working, and attending schools near sterilizer facilities safe.”


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