For Immediate Release
Date: August 14, 2019
Contact: Michael Power, (404) 242-5016
Georgia Chemistry Council Statement on Ethylene Oxide
Today, the Georgia Chemistry Council issued a statement on the recent developments surrounding ethylene oxide:
“Recently, there have been concerns raised about the safety of ethylene oxide (EO) – an important chemical building block used to produce many products we use every day, such as certain plastics, household cleaners, safety glass, adhesives, textiles, and detergents. EO is present in the environment. It is produced by plant decay, vehicle exhaust, cooking oils, cigarette smoke and other sources. Importantly, EO is also used to sterilize medical equipment and supplies to help prevent infection and strengthen healthcare for Georgia families.
“Unfortunately, these recent concerns stem from one severely flawed assessment by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program. The IRIS assessment — which is largely based on modeling, not real world exposure information — dramatically overestimates the cancer hazard of EO, deeming it unsafe at levels far below what is found in our everyday environment. In fact, the EO cancer value derived from EPA’s modeling is 19,000 times lower than the normal, naturally created levels of EO in the human body.
“Recently, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) reviewed the IRIS assessment and said that, ‘the USEPA unit risk factor (URF) for ethylene oxide is not scientifically justified.’ TCEQ conducted its own analysis of EO and proposed an environmental screening level that is available for public comment.
“Others also have raised concerns with the IRIS process. For example, two independent EPA Science Advisory Boards outlined additional key issues with the EO IRIS assessment. Moreover, in 2011, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) criticized IRIS assessments generally for their poor scientific quality (a result of the IRIS program’s unnecessary reliance on overly conservative and default assumptions in its modeling, as well as on outdated scientific information) and made specific recommendations that were not addressed.
“We share a commitment to protecting public health and the safety of our environment; however, it is unfortunate that this one flawed assessment has caused so much unnecessary alarm in our community. We will continue to work with regulators and scientific researchers to ensure the best available science is used to protect Georgia families.”