EPA to Host Meeting on Carcinogen Gases Used by Groveland Sterilization Facility – Orlando Sentinel
An industrial facility in Groveland using carcinogen gas has been classified by federal authorities as posing high risk to nearby residents and is expected to be the subject of a virtual public meeting on Thursday.
Under pressure from health and environmental groups, the US Environmental Protection Agency plans to tighten regulations on the use of colorless and normally odorless ethylene oxide.
The Sampey Road International Sterilization Laboratory in Groveland uses ethylene oxide to sterilize medical equipment.
“EPA is reaching out to communities facing the highest risks from commercial sterilization facilities,” the agency said in announcing a public meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Go to epa.gov/hazardous-air-pollutants-ethylene-oxide to register. Click on “High-Risk Locations” and then on “Groveland” to access “Register to Learn More”.
The International Sterilization Lab, opened in the 1990s, meets all current EPA requirements for the use of ethylene oxide, said company vice president Mike Walter.
“Any changes made by the EPA in the future, the International Sterilization Laboratory plans to meet these requirements,” Walter said.
Ethylene oxide is used for the sterilization of equipment that is too sensitive to water or heat. Some environmental groups want the chemical phased out. But the EPA says it is committed to addressing risks in a “comprehensive way that ensures facilities can operate safely in communities while providing sterilized medical supplies.”
In 2016, the EPA determined that the chemical was more dangerous than previously thought and declared it a carcinogen. The federal environment agency calls the chemical EtO.
“Scientific evidence in humans indicates that exposure to EtO over many years increases the risk of white blood cell cancers, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, myeloma, and lymphocytic leukemia,” the agency says on its website for the presentation of ethylene oxide. “Studies also show that long-term exposure to EtO increases the risk of breast cancer in women.”
The EPA lists factories in 33 states that use ethylene oxide for sterilization of medical equipment. In August, the agency revealed that of 100 factories examined, 23 pose high risks to nearby residential communities.
These include the Groveland company, the only one in Florida, and four in Puerto Rico in Añasco, Fajardo Salinas and Villalba.
Although emissions from the 23 plants do not pose a threat under “short-term health benchmarks,” according to the EPA, “the concern is that lifetime exposure to EtO emissions could have long-term effects on health”.
The area around the International Sterilization Laboratory in Groveland is largely industrial, but is near a tractor supply and a pizza place along State Route 50.
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There are residential streets south of the sterilization plant that are indicated by an EPA map as being in the area at higher risk for ethylene oxide emissions.
In announcing Thursday’s public meeting, the EPA described the Groveland company as “equipped with wet scrubbers to remove EtO from its sterilization chambers and vent room exhaust.”
“The facility is evaluating plans to reduce the amount of EtO needed for certain sterilization cycles,” the EPA statement added. “There has been no recent expansion of control equipment, but the facility is evaluating how to improve its operations to control fugitive emissions.”
Walter said the exposure risks presented by the EPA are based on modeling or computerized estimation and not actual emissions monitoring. He also said more advanced equipment to control ethylene oxide emissions is available, but it doesn’t make sense to acquire this equipment without the EPA determining new standards first. of emissions.
Walter said company officials are frustrated that the public may perceive the EPA’s actions on ethylene oxide as suggesting illegal pollution.
“We meet anything the EPA wants us to meet,” he said.