WVDEP announces results for first round of Ethylene Oxide air sampling in Kanawha County


Charleston, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has completed the Quality Assurance review of the first round of its four-part air sampling plan for Ethylene Oxide (EtO) in the South Charleston and Institute areas of Kanawha County. 

The primary purpose of the monitoring is to determine the presence and concentration of EtO in the local communities’ ambient air, which is the air you breathe outside the fence line of a permitted facility. The samples were collected by the WVDEP over one 24-hour period on January 25-26, 2022, using a U.S. EPA-approved method designed to monitor EtO.

The WVDEP is also sampling for EtO in the air in Guthrie, WV, a location far away from any permitted source of EtO. This is done for the purpose of identifying baseline levels of EtO in areas where there is no known source (background levels).

The concentrations were measured in parts per billion (ppb) by volume. One (1) ppb is equivalent to one second in a 32-year time span or one drop of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. 

All sites monitored in this first round of sampling showed concentrations less than 1 ppb. These concentrations are influenced by many factors, including wind and weather data, operations at the facilities, and background levels. This is why multiple rounds of sampling are being conducted.

The results from the first round of sampling are available on the WVDEP’s EtO webpage

"It's important to stress that this is just the first step in the process and these results need to be reviewed with those from the remaining rounds of sampling before we can make any determinations," said WVDEP Cabinet Secretary Harold Ward. 

Collectively, the results of the four (4) rounds of sampling, along with emissions and weather data from the days sampled, will be reviewed by both the WVDEP and EPA and compiled into a final report. This report will be made available to the public as soon as it is completed and will guide any future actions taken by the agency. 

The South Charleston and Institute areas include census tracts identified by the EPA as having a potentially elevated lifetime cancer risk, primarily driven by EtO emissions. The findings regarding the elevated risk associated with EtO were not due to new emission sources or increased emissions from permit holders, but rather to the EPA's finding that long-term exposure to EtO may be more harmful than previously thought. 

The U.S. EPA just released its new air toxics risk screening tool - AirToxScreen​. This assessment estimates air toxics using emissions data from the most recent year of complete data available. This tool indicates that all census tracts in West Virginia are under the 100 in 1 million cancer risk level. Questions about this assessment should be directed to EPA at airtoxics@epa.gov.

Additional information about EtO and the steps the WVDEP has taken to address the issue are available on the WVDEP's EtO webpage.

To receive future updates on EtO from the WVDEP, sign up for the agency's EtO mailing list.

For more WVDEP news and information, go to www.dep.wv.gov. Also, connect with the agency on all social media platforms. Follow @DEPWV on Twitter, Like us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/depwv/, and find us on YouTube at Environment Matters​.​


Terry Fletcher
304-926-0499 ext. 49720