Health

EPA: Chemicals in medical device cleaners pose cancer risk


WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency is warning residents who live near medical disinfection plants in 13 states and Puerto Rico of potential health risks from the release of ethylene oxide, a chemical used in the United States. widely used in their activities.

Laredo, Texas; Ardmore, Oklahoma; and Lakewood, Colorado, are among the communities most at risk from ethylene oxide emissions, the EPA said.

The agency has notified 23 commercial fumigators — 19 in the continental United States and four in Puerto Rico — that their operations carry a high risk of cancer and other diseases. The announcement follows a recent survey of emissions data from nearly 100 commercial sterilizers nationwide.

Ethylene oxide is used to clean everything from catheters to syringes, pacemakers and plastic surgical gowns.

While short-term or occasional exposure to ethylene oxide does not appear to pose a health hazard, the EPA says long-term or lifelong exposure to the chemical can lead to a variety of health effects, including lymphoma and breast cancer. The EPA said it is working with commercial sterilisers to take appropriate steps to reduce emissions.

“Today, the EPA is taking action to ensure the public is informed and engaged in our efforts to address ethylene oxide, a potent air poison that poses serious health risks when long-term exposure,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement Wednesday.

EPA will conduct outreach campaigns in each community where there is an increased risk, including a webinar on Aug.


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Laredo, one of the communities targeted by the EPA, is a border city where the vast majority of residents are Latino and more than a quarter live in poverty. Missouri-based Midwest Fumigation Corporation operates a fumigation plant in Laredo.

According to an analysis by ProPublica and the Texas Tribune, more than 40% of the city’s nearly 70,000 students attend school in high-risk areas due to ethylene oxide emissions from the Midwest plant.

A spokesperson for the Midwest declined to immediately comment. But the company told ProPublica and Tribune last December that the cancer risk from their fumigation plant was overstated. The company said emissions reported to the EPA are “worst-case scenarios” and not specific pollution levels.

The Ethylene Oxide Disinfection Association, an industry group, said in a statement that ethylene oxide has been used by the healthcare community for decades to disinfect a wide variety of medical devices and devices. More than 20 billion healthcare products are disinfected each year in the US alone.

In many cases, there are no practical alternatives to ethylene oxide, the team said, adding that using less effective cleaning methods “can pose real risks.” on increased morbidity and mortality” in hospitals across the country.

The EPA calls medical sterilization “an important function that ensures the safe delivery of medical devices to patients and hospitals.” The agency said it is committed to addressing EO-related pollution concerns, sometimes referred to as EtO, “in a comprehensive way to ensure facilities can operate safely in the community while at the same time being safe.” provide disinfected medical supplies”.

The EPA says a proposed rule to update controls on harmful airborne emissions from commercial sterilisers is expected later this year, with final regulation likely in 2020. later, the EPA said.

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