Earthjustice Praises Calls by Members of Congress for a Stronger Ethylene Oxide Rule, Urges EPA to Act

Forty Members of Congress sent a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan urging the agency to strengthen its proposed ethylene oxide (EtO) commercial sterilizers rule.


Geoffrey Nolan, Earthjustice,, (202) 740-7030

Last week, 40 ,embers of Congress sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan urging the agency to strengthen its proposed ethylene oxide (EtO) commercial sterilizers rule. The letter was led by House EtO Chair Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL), Senate Environment and Public Works Chair Tom Carper (D-DE), and Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). Ethylene oxide is used to make products like antifreeze, plastics, detergents, and adhesives, and is commonly used to sterilize medical equipment and dried food products like spices. The mutagenic, colorless, typically odorless, flammable gas is also a known carcinogen.

“Given strong evidence that fence-line monitoring is a proven method for verifying the effectiveness of emission control equipment and detecting fugitive emissions, we encourage you to include requirements for fence-line monitoring in the final rule,” the members wrote. “We ask that you clarify in the final rule whether offsite storage warehouses are covered facilities, and ask that the agency explore all regulatory options for addressing emissions from these facilities … Given the dangerous risk EtO exposure continues to present to communities, we urge EPA to consider adopting a shorter compliance timeline in the final rule.”

In December 2022, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against the EPA over its failure to update ethylene oxide standards to protect vulnerable communities from air contaminated by commercial sterilization facilities. The letter from Congressional champions adds to calls that 114 organizations recently made to EPA urging similar improvements to the Clean Air Act rule as well as the agency’s proposed action under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), where EPA found that workers at sterilization facilities have a 1 in 10 cancer risk due to their exposure to EtO.

“EPA must do more to protect vulnerable communities from ethylene oxide, and these proposed actions are important first steps in the right direction,” said Earthjustice Senior Legislative Representative Daniel Savery. “We applaud these members of Congress for calling for a stronger commercial sterilizer rule and urge the EPA to go even further by phasing out the use of ethylene oxide where safer alternatives are available. If the administration wants to uphold its commitments to environmental justice and ‘ending cancer as we know it,’ that starts with regulations on carcinogens like ethylene oxide that are as strong as the risks are profound.”

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