CHARLESTON, W.Va – The West Virginia Department of
Environmental Protection (WVDEP) is working in cooperation with the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a strategy to address new
concerns that have been raised by EPA over the chemical, Ethylene Oxide (EtO).
EtO is a flammable, colorless gas that is used as the
primary method for sterilizing medical and dental equipment. According to the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration (FDA), nearly half of all sterilized medical devices in the U.S.
are cleaned with the gas. It is also
used to manufacture products such as antifreeze, textiles, plastics, detergents,
Using data gathered under the National Air Toxics
Assessment (NATA), EPA recently elevated the potential risk factor for EtO as a
Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) when compared to its previous analysis. The NATA
is a screening tool developed by EPA. It
is used to identify pollutants and emission sources that may warrant further
study. Those investigations often
include detailed analysis and monitoring conducted on a local level.
According to EPA’s most recent NATA, over 133 tons of
EtO were emitted nationally in 2014, with Texas (48.45 tons) and Louisiana
(40.68) accounting for 66 percent of total EtO emissions. Illinois (6.32 tons),
Missouri (5.35), Georgia (5.16), West Virginia (4.05), and Pennsylvania (3.60)
are the next five highest emitters.
“Our agency has identified and initiated an updated review
of EtO emitters in West Virginia,” said WVDEP Cabinet Secretary Austin
Caperton. “We are developing strategies that will provide more detailed
emissions data that may be required for compliance with any new federal
guidelines. We are also in contact with regulatory
agencies in other states regarding how they are addressing this matter.”