The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Erin Fitzgerald,

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.


Today, the US 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."

EPA will also be holding a public webinar on August 10 to understand the national scope of the risk posed by ethylene oxide. To learn more about the webinar or register, click here.

Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.