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Protecting the Health and Safety of the Public is a Top Priority for Ethylene Oxide Producers and Users

Tom Flanagin

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is conducting two public hearings related to ethylene oxide as it takes public comments on its proposed risk and technology review for the Miscellaneous Organic Chemical Manufacturing National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants, known as the MON. The MON is the first rulemaking of this type to directly regulate certain emissions of ethylene oxide.

Ethylene oxide is a versatile compound that’s used to help make countless everyday products. We use it to make household cleaners and personal care items, create fabrics, and manufacture raw materials into more useful forms. A small but important use of ethylene oxide is the sterilization of medical equipment. It’s estimated that more than 50 percent of all medical devices are sterilized with ethylene oxide.

Protecting the health and safety of the public is a top priority for the producers and users of ethylene oxide and our industry.  Companies that make and work with ethylene oxide are actively investing in research and cutting-edge product stewardship technologies so that we can continue to help protect the health of our communities. This starts with the regulations set out by EPA and state agencies. But our members go beyond simply following regulations. We continuously revise and improve industry’s safety practices and procedures and are making progress in three ways:

First, our industry has invested millions of dollars in research and development of rigorous product stewardship guidelines. Second, we use advanced, cutting-edge technologies to track emissions and help avoid accidents before they happen, as well as new technologies that support long-term safety. Third, we share best practices for safely producing, shipping, and handling ethylene oxide across the industry.

As a result of these actions, industrial ethylene oxide emissions have already fallen nationwide by over 80% since 2002, according to the 2014 National Emissions Inventory.    

Additionally, one comprehensive lifetime exposure study of workers in ethylene oxide production facilities found no statistically significant excess cancer risk due to ethylene oxide  exposure.  A similar result was recently found in Michigan when the state analyzed the population near a facility that used ethylene oxide in Grand Rapids.

We believe that sound science is fundamental to properly setting safe emissions limits.  Therefore we have requested that EPA correct what we believe are flawed assumptions with its IRIS value for ethylene oxide that are inconsistent with the weight of the scientific evidence. There has already been great progress, but companies that make and work with ethylene oxide are not stopping there. We are constantly using what we’ve learned to improve best practices, striving to minimize emissions every day. We look forward to the opportunity to engage with EPA on this important issue.

American Chemistry Council

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) represents the leading companies engaged in the business of chemistry. ACC members apply the science of chemistry to make innovative products and services that make people's lives better, healthier and safer. ACC is committed to improved environmental, health and safety performance through Responsible Care®; common sense advocacy designed to address major public policy issues; and health and environmental research and product testing. The business of chemistry is a $486 billion enterprise and a key element of the nation's economy. It is among the largest exporters in the nation, accounting for ten percent of all U.S. goods exports. Chemistry companies are among the largest investors in research and development. Safety and security have always been primary concerns of ACC members, and they have intensified their efforts, working closely with government agencies to improve security and to defend against any threat to the nation’s critical infrastructure.

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