U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted a 10 year study on ethylene oxide or EtO from 2007 until 2016. EPA determined EtO was more dangerous than it previously had in regulations, and moved the chemical to the known carcinogens list, the list of chemicals that definitely cause cancer.
2018, EPA used that information with others in the National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) which flagged 109 tracts in the U.S. for higher cancer risk due to exposure to toxins, including EtO. The NATA report said that EtO caused an estimated 214 cases of cancer for every 1,000,000 exposed. EPA decided to not release this to the public. Near the BD Bard plant in Covington, there are up to 97 times the acceptable area concentration of EtO according to the State of Georgia Environmental Protection Division. The State has issued maps of the concentration, but these are guesses, based on self-reporting by BC Bard and not independent measurements.
Information compiled by the Georgia Comprehensive Cancer Registry show at least one of the cancers tied to EtO, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, has risen significantly over the years for men in Covington near the BD Bard plant workers. Area men are being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at a high rate, similar to those shown in studies of workers who work with EtO.
BD Bard has been emitting EtO since at least 1987, the first year self-reporting was required by the Federal Government. That year, BD Bard released 76,000 pounds, by 1991, that number was down to 35,700, by 2007 it was 9,000. The State’s model shows risk extends more than 15 miles from the plant.
Studies have linked exposure to ethylene oxide to a variety of cancers, including:
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Multiple myeloma
- Breast cancer
Less conclusive evidence has shown a possible link to:
- Pancreatic cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Kidney cancer
Furthermore, some animal studies have shown a link to:
- Lung cancer
- Brain tumors
- Peritoneal mesothelioma
- Uterine cancer
Other possible health effects include:
- Testicular degeneration
- Kidney damage
- Irritation of eyes, skin, and respiratory
Information from the story, Residents Unaware of Cancer-Causing Toxin in Air,
By Brenda Goodman, MA, of WebMD.com Andy Miller of Georgia Health News