Health

Chemical in cleanser for medical devices poses cancer risk

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency is warning residents who live near medical sterilization plants in 13 states and Puerto Rico about potential health risks from emissions of ethylene oxide, a chemical widely used in their operations.

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

The agency has notified 23 commercial sterilizers — 19 in the continental U.S. and four in Puerto Rico — that their operations pose an increased risk of cancer and other ailments. 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 surgery gowns.

While short-term or infrequent exposure to ethylene oxide does not seem to pose a health risk, EPA said long-term or lifelong exposure to the chemical can lead to a variety of health consequences, including lymphoma and breast cancer. EPA said it is working with commercial sterilizers to take appropriate steps to reduce emissions.

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

EPA will carry out public outreach campaigns in each of the communities where increased risks have been found, including an August 10 webinar. More than half of the sites on EPA’s watch list are primarily in minority or low-income communities.

Laredo, one of the communities targeted by the EPA notice, is a border city where the vast majority of residents are Latino and more than a quarter live in poverty. Missouri-based Midwest Sterilization Corp. operates a sterilization plant in Laredo. The company also has a plant in Jackson, Missouri that is on EPA’s watch list.

More than 40% of Laredo’s nearly 70,000 school children attend campuses in areas with an increased risk of cancer due to ethylene oxide emissions from the Midwest plant, according to an analysis by ProPublica and the Texas Tribune.

A Midwest spokesman declined immediate comment. But the company told ProPublica and the Tribune last December that cancer risk from its Laredo plant is too high. Emissions it reported to the EPA are “worst-case scenarios,” rather than specific pollution levels, the company said.

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

In many cases. there are currently no practical alternatives available to ethylene oxide, the group said, adding that using less effective cleaning methods could “introduce real risks of increased morbidity and mortality” to hospitals across the country.

EPA called medical sterilization “a critical function that ensures a safe supply of medical devices for patients and hospitals.” The agency said it is committed to addressing contamination issues associated with EO, sometimes called EtO, “in a comprehensive manner that ensures facilities can operate safely in communities while also providing sterilized medical supplies.” ‘

Proposed rules to update control of toxic air emissions from commercial sterilizers and facilities that produce EtO are expected by the end of the year, with final rules likely next year, EPA said.

Scott Whitaker, president and CEO of the Advanced Medical Technology Association, another industry group, applauded EPA “for its candor about what it does and doesn’t know” about EtO, but added, “It’s critical that the EPA gets this right.”

A potential shutdown of medical device sterilization facilities “due to misinformed political pressure, as well as uncertainty about which regulations the facilities must follow … would be disastrous for public health,” Whitaker said in an email.

At least seven sterilizers on the EPA’s watch list are AdvaMed members, including both Midwest plants and two owned by industry giant Becton, Dickinson and Co., also known as BD.

In addition to medical cleaners, EtO is used in a variety of products, including antifreeze, textiles, plastics, detergents, and adhesives. It was also used to decontaminate some food products and herbs. Two of the 23 facilities targeted by EPA — in Hanover and Jessup, Maryland — are used to sterilize herbs. Both are operated by Jessup-based Elite Spice.

Other commercial sterilizers cited by EPA are located in Groveland, Fla.; Salisbury, Md.; Taunton Mass.; Columbus, Nebraska; Linden and Franklin, New Jersey; Erie and Naples, Pa. Memphis and New Tazewell, Tennessee; Athens, Texas; Sandy Utah; and Richmond Virginia; ,

Four plants are Puerto Rico: Anasco, Fajardo, Salinas and Villalba.

Chemical in cleanser for medical devices poses cancer risk

Source link Chemical in cleanser for medical devices poses cancer risk

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