Energy & Environment

EPA may increase reporting requirements for carcinogen used in plastic sterilization


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday took a first step toward imposing broader reporting requirements for facilities that produce a toxic, flammable compound linked to cancer.

The EPA will broaden the scope of requirements for Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) reporting for certain facilities’ releases of ethylene oxide (EtO), the agency said Wednesday. EtO, which is used in various processes for sterilizing textiles and plastics, has been linked to eye, skin and respiratory irritation in the short term and cancer in the long term.

Both EtO and ethylene glycol, which is produced using EtO, have been on the TRI list of toxic chemicals since it was first compiled in 1987. The EPA has notified 31 contract sterilization facilities it is considering requiring them to report all releases of EtO.

The 31 facilities in question were determined to use particularly high amounts of EtO, with the agency estimating amounts in excess of 10,000 pounds per year. The facilities were also identified based on a combination of history of releases of the compound and proximity to population centers and schools.

The facilities will have 30 days to respond with information such as whether they still use EtO. The EPA will weigh the information produced before making a decision on whether to order those facilities to report EtO releases.

“EPA is committed to taking action to protect people from exposure to EtO, especially children, workers and residents in underserved and overburdened communities,” said Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff. 

“Requiring companies that use the largest amounts of EtO in this industry sector to report on this chemical will help inform EPA’s future actions and ensure that communities have access to the best information available so they can take necessary action.”

The EPA under Administrator Michael Regan has named environmental justice as a major priority.

In recent weeks, the EPA held several public meetings on the risks of EtO emissions in communities. However, according to videos reviewed by The Intercept, the EPA reportedly allowed companies responsible for many of the emissions to participate in the meetings where they downplayed the hazard.

Tags Carcinogen Ethylene Oxide Michael Regan Toxics Release Inventory

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