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EPA announces new effort to reduce ethylene oxide emissions nationwide

The EPA plans to hold public hearings on the proposals, next month.

WASHINGTON — The country's Environmental Protection Agency is taking steps to reduce the emissions of a carcinogenic gas across the country.

The EPA announced a plan to lower ethylene oxide emissions by 93 percent. The toxic gas - one of 187 hazardous air pollutants regulated by the EPA - is used to make a range of products, but is primarily used to sterilize medical equipment. It is also known to cause higher instances of cancer. 

In a news release, the EPA explained the reasoning behind the proposal.

"EPA has evaluated the risks posed by air toxics from this source category and has determined cancer risks for this source category to be unacceptable," it said in the release.

The EPA said it would propose additional requirements for process vents, storage tanks and equipment. The plan would also include updates to requirements for flares, heat exchange systems, and equipment leaks. 

"EPA is gathering additional information on ethylene oxide emissions and is working with state and local air agencies to determine whether more immediate emission reduction steps may be warranted," the agency continued, noting that it would be working with the FDA to better understand ethylene oxide. 

The EPA plans to hold public hearings on the proposals, next month.

RELATED: What is ethylene oxide?

The move comes after multiple medical sterilization facilities in the metro Atlanta area - primarily the BD plant in Covington and the Sterigenics plant in Cobb County - come under scrutiny for accidental leaks of the gas into the air. 

Both of those plants have stopped operations as they install upgrades to the facilities. However, the FDA is warning that those closings could have a serious ripple effect that could have a negative impact.

RELATED: 3rd plant gets scrutiny for ethylene oxide leaks


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