In 2016, the US EPA made a decision that ethylene oxide is “carcinogenic to humans” by the inhalation route of exposure. They based their decision on a weaker premise that rates of cancer in work areas that harbored high exposure levels were elevated, and strong evidence of cancer in laboratory rats.
The news that areas in Covington and Smyrna Georgia were affected was broken in a WebMD article on July 19, 2019. The article says about the chemical …
It’s used to sterilize medical equipment because it penetrates cardboard, paper, and plastic, laying waste to microbes like bacteria and fungi that can cause infections or spoil foods.
Local news picked up the story, reported by 11-Alive here, they also credited Georgia Health News for breaking the news. GHN and WebMD talked to state regulators, who have the task of balancing the risks with jobs and economic health.
No company can release the chemical without a state permit. The permits were first issued before the US EPA issued their guidance. No doubt the sterilization of medical devices offers great benefits, but the number of cancer cases in Covington are disturbing.
According to 11-Alive …
The EPA considers it unacceptable if you have 100 extra cases of cancer per 1 million people exposed. In the Smyrna area, it was 114 extra cases of cancer, which is unexceptionable to the EPA. In Covington, it was over 200.
These cancer cases cannot be directly linked to the current controversy. There are certainly other causes for this anomaly. Certainly, intense study needs to convene immediately of these rates for Covington, Georgia.