American Chemistry Council: EPA is Overstating Ethylene Oxide Emissions Risks

June 30, 2023
Industry group says program’s proposed toxicity value is 19,000 times lower than naturally occurring levels of ethylene oxide found in the human body.

The risk of ethylene oxide is 4,000 times lower than the Environmental Protection Agency’s estimated in proposed updates to the Clean Air Act, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) noted in its final comments on the EPA’s proposal.

“We support strong, science-based regulations for EO (ethylene oxide),” ACC said. “However, we oppose the use of EPA’s flawed IRIS (Integrated Risk Information System) value as a benchmark in any rulemaking. ACC and others have detailed the severe science-based flaws with the IRIS value that resulted in an overly conservative value that is below background levels of ethylene oxide.”

ACC cites studies from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) that claim the EPA’s conclusions are flawed. ACC states that the IRIS program’s proposed toxicity value is 19,000 times lower than naturally occurring levels of ethylene oxide found in the human body.

According to State Impact, a reporting project of National Public Radio member stations, TCEQ has not always been in compliance with EPA standards, “which has caused some friction between the two organizations.”

TCEQ has been the target of complaints and lawsuits from other environmental groups in Texas, State Impact notes.

ACC touted the benefits of ethylene oxide in its comments, saying it’s “a versatile building block compound that’s used to help make countless everyday products,” including uses in industrial innovations, such as electric vehicle batteries, natural gas purification and medical-equipment sterilization.

“According to FDA, ‘For many medical devices, sterilization with ethylene oxide may be the only method that effectively sterilizes and does not damage the device during the sterilization process,’” ACC notes. 

Ethylene oxide is a colorless gas used to make other chemicals, including antifreeze, textiles, plastics, detergents and adhesives. It’s also is used to sterilize equipment and plastic devices that cannot be sterilized by steam, such as medical equipment.

According to the EPA, use can contribute to increased cancer risk. As Chemical Processing noted in an April article, , the EPA issued three proposals aimed at reducing reduce the health risks in communities and for workers.

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