Ethylene Oxide (EtO) is a colorless, odorless and flammable gas used as a sterilizing agent, disinfectant, and fumigant in various industries including healthcare. It is known to cause cancer to humans, especially when inhaled. In addition to being a highly toxic carcinogen, ethylene-oxide is also mutagenic, meaning it can damage DNA, and is known to cause birth defects and severe reproductive issues (1)
In 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reclassified EtO as a Level 1 carcinogen (causes cancer in humans). In Laredo,Texas, ethylene oxide is used by Midwest Sterilization Corporation to sterilize medical equipment. It is an effective tool in killing bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms by infiltrating cells and damaging its DNA structure (2)
. However, after a comprehensive review of scientific studies, the EPA found that ethylene oxide is 60 times
more toxic to children and 30 times
more toxic to adults than previously estimated (3)
Because EPA science shows that long-term exposure to high concentrations of EtO can increase the lifetime risk of getting cancer, the agency held an in-person public meeting in Laredo on September 15, 2022. (Watch here)
As a community being affected by this chemical, it is important for us to be aware of the dangers of ethylene oxide and take action. Midwest Sterilization has a responsibility to control their emissions and ensure the safety of the community and their employees.