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The EPA Has Identified 23 U.S. Facilities That Are Emitting Toxic Air Pollution That Puts People at Risk

Toxic chemicals in the air might be the reason that you or a loved one developed cancer or another disease. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that nearly two dozen commercial sterilizer plants around the United States are polluting the air with toxic gases. People who live nearby have a significantly increased lifetime cancer risk.

You might want to talk to a toxic torts attorney about your legal options and to see if you can hold these facilities accountable for the harm this toxic pollution causes.

What Toxic Chemical Do These Facilities Use?

According to the Texas Tribune, commercial sterilizer plants use ethylene oxide to fumigate some food products and to sanitize equipment used in the medical and dental industries. Ethylene oxide is a toxic gas. The EPA is working on a proposal that would limit how much of this toxic gas these facilities can release into the air outside the plant. 

Also, the proposal places restrictions on how ethylene oxide gets used inside commercial sterilizer facilities. The goal is to protect workers inside these plants and people working or attending school in close proximity to these buildings.

How Dangerous is Ethylene Oxide?

The EPA relies on these commercial sterilizer facilities to self-report their emissions. Even based on the self-reported emission data, the EPA realized in 2016 that ethylene oxide is a much more dangerous carcinogen than previously thought. Adults who continuously inhale this gas face a likelihood of developing cancer at a rate that is 30 times greater than previously thought, and for children exposed to the gas in the air since birth, the gas is 50 times more carcinogenic than previously thought.

Where Are the Worst Offenders of Toxic Air Pollution?

The Texas Tribune reports that the most toxic commercial sterilizer facility of its kind in the entire United States is located in Laredo, Texas, which sits on the Texas-Mexico border. This facility is close to an elementary school. The Texas Tribune contacted more than 100 residents of the 260,000-resident community. None of those residents had been informed of the risk posed by exposure to ethylene oxide. In fact, only one of the more than 100 people questioned even knew of the existence of the facility. 

Can We Trust the Data?

Because the EPA uses only self-reported emissions data, there is no way to know if the chemical levels released into the air are accurate. We do know, however, that even at the reported levels, the EPA found that commercial sterilizer plants all over the United States increase the cancer risk for people living nearby. 

In particular, the EPA found that 23 of these facilities create an excess cancer risk of at least one in 10,000 for nearby residents. In other words, with lifetime exposure to the toxic gas at the reported levels, at least one person out of 10,000 will develop cancer caused by the exposure. If you or a loved one developed cancer after living near a commercial sterilizer plant, you will want to talk to a toxic torts attorney about your legal options. Contact our office today for legal help with your case.