April 11, 2024

EPA rule to limit dangerous emissions from medical sterilization plants

Editor's Note

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized a rule to reduce chloroprene and ethylene oxide emissions that will impact over 200 chemical plants across the nation, including medical sterilization plants, according to an April 10 report from USA Today.

Under the new rule, the EPA will cut more than 6,200 tons of chloroprene and ethylene oxide emissions—reducing those emissions by nearly 80%. In addition to ethylene oxide and chloroprene, the rule will target benzene, 1,3-butadiene, ethylene dichloride, and vinyl chloride. Companies have 2 to 3 years to comply with the standards, depending on their size. 

Ethylene oxide is used to sterilize medical equipment, while chloroprene is used to make synthetic rubber. Most of these chemicals are produced by facilities in Texas and Louisiana. According to the EPA, more than 100,000 people, many of whom are Black and poor, live within 6 miles of US facilities that make synthetic chemicals. These populations face an elevated risk (1 in 10,000 people) of developing cancer, including lymphoma, leukemia, breast cancer and liver cancer. 

The agency notes that the new clean air standards will reduce the number of people with elevated cancer risks by 96%.

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