What is Ethylene Oxide (EtO)?
Ethylene oxide is a colorless gas commonly used in sterilization processes due to its ability to destroy bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms.
It is widely employed in healthcare facilities particularly to sterilize medical devices and medical equipment.
Ethylene oxide is a highly reactive and flammable gas.
EtO is also commonly used as a precursor in the production of various chemicals, including ethylene glycol, which is used in the manufacturing of polyester fibers and antifreeze.
Despite its effectiveness, ethylene oxide has come under scrutiny due to potential health risks associated with exposure.
What is Ethylene Oxide Used For?
Ethylene oxide has been widely used due to its versatile properties, especially as a sterilizing agent for medical equipment.
Its ability to penetrate various materials and effectively kill microorganisms makes it a valuable tool in ensuring the safety and sterility of medical devices.
The chemical itself was first discovered in 1859 by French chemist Charles-Adolphe Wurtz.
However, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that its sterilization properties were recognized.
In the 1940s, researchers at the Carle Clinic in Urbana, Illinois, conducted pioneering work on the sterilizing capabilities of ethylene oxide, leading to its adoption in the medical field.
Over the years, ethylene oxide has been widely used and refined.
Its applications have expanded beyond sterilization to encompass various industrial processes and chemical manufacturing, making it a crucial compound in numerous industries.
Ethylene Oxide Exposure Health Risks
Exposure to ethylene oxide gas has been found to increase a person’s risk to develop cancer and other serious health problems.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO), has classified ethylene oxide as Group 1, meaning it is classified as carcinogenic to humans.
Similarly, regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP) classify ethylene oxide as a known human carcinogen.
Prolonged or repeated exposure to ethylene oxide may also have reproductive effects, respiratory issues, and neurological impacts.
Occupational settings, where higher concentrations may be encountered, present a greater risk.
It is crucial to understand the potential health risks associated with ethylene oxide and implement appropriate safety measures to minimize exposure.
Ethylene Oxide Cancer Risk
Ethylene Oxide is a known human carcinogen.
Linked to various cancers, ethylene oxide is now known to be a major risk to public health.
People exposed to ethylene oxide for long periods of time have an increased risk to develop cancer.
Cancers linked to ethylene oxide exposure include:
- Breast cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Blood cancers
- Other cancers of white blood cells
The full scope of carcinogenic risks from exposure to ethylene oxide is not known and more research is being done on the effects of chronic exposure to the chemical.
Ethylene Oxide Side Effects: Acute Exposure Symptoms
People exposed to ethylene oxide may experience short-term adverse health effects.
People exposed to toxic EtO gas may experience the following symptoms:
- Stomach pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Eye and skin burns
- Reproductive problems
Research on Exposure to Ethylene Oxide and Subsequent Health Problems
Scientific studies on the health effects of ethylene oxide date back decades.
The scientific community, along with influential and governmental health and environmental regulators have known about the health risks of EtO exposure for quite some time.
Several agencies and institutions have labeled EtO as a probable human carcinogen, with occupational exposure as a particular area of concern.
Even acute exposures to ethylene oxide gas can result in minor to severe health issues.
World Health Organization (WHO) Literature on Ethylene Oxide Exposure
The World Heath Organization (WHO) has long identified the risks associated with ethylene oxide.
WHO reports and studies on ethylene oxide:
Other Scientific Studies on Ethylene Oxide Exposure and Health Effects
The body of research linking ethylene oxide exposure to cancer and other adverse health effects is sizable.
The following studies conducted over the past 30+ years speak to the dangers posed by EtO exposure:
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Guidance on EtO Sterilization Emissions
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released updated guidance on Ethylene Oxide emissions.
The new guidance outlines the dangers of human exposure to ethylene oxide and provides guidelines for occupational safety and the use of personal protective equipment.
In April 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency issued three proposals to reduce health risks for workers and surrounding communities of sterilization facilities:
- Reducing EtO Emissions from Chemical Plants
- Reducing EtO Emissions from Commercial Sterilizers
- Reducing Risk to Workers in the Sterilization Industry
In an effort to lower air pollution, the EPA proposed updates to regulations governing plants involved in the production of synthetic organic chemicals, polymers, and resins.
This proposal, known as the Hazardous Organic NESHAP (HON), would lead to a significant reduction of various air toxics, including EtO.
It is estimated that once fully implemented, this rule would decrease EtO emissions by 63%, resulting in a reduction of 58 tons per year.
The EPA has also proposed stricter emission standards for commercial sterilizers, both existing and new ones, across the country.
If finalized, these updated requirements would result in an 80% reduction in EtO emissions from commercial sterilizers.
The aim is to bring the emissions down to levels below the benchmark set by the Clean Air Act, effectively reducing the risk to nearby communities.
To enhance worker safety and protect communities near sterilization facilities, the EPA proposed comprehensive protections under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.
These measures would benefit workers involved in sterilization processes using EtO, as well as individuals living, working, or attending school near such facilities.
The objective is to minimize the risks associated with EtO exposure in various settings.
Ethylene Oxide Exposure Lawsuits: Do You Qualify?
Ethylene Oxide Lawsuits would aim to hold companies liable for adverse health effects of ethylene oxide emissions.
Repeated exposure to ethylene oxide has been found to increase cancer risk, impact the nervous system, cause respiratory irritation, and other health problems.
If you or a loved one were exposed to ethylene oxide and subsequently developed cancer or other medical problems, you may be eligible to file an Ethylene Oxide claim.
Contact TruLaw for a free consultation.
You can also use the chatbot on this page for a free and instant case evaluation.
In the event of an ethylene oxide litigation, your lawyer will help you complete the necessary steps to file a claim and seek compensation.
These steps include gathering evidence and assessing damages.
Gathering Evidence for Ethylene Oxide Exposure Lawsuits
Evidence is extremely important in cases involving harmful chemical exposure.
While ethylene oxide lawsuits are still being strategized, there are certain types of evidence that are generally present in chemical exposure cases.
Evidence in an ethylene oxide lawsuit may include:
- Medical records
- Employment records
- Residential records
- Air quality tests
- Doctor’s notes
- Any other evidence proving exposed to ethylene oxide and subsequent health problems
Even though your attorney will help you gather evidence for your case, you can help by beginning to gather and retain any evidence you have access to.
Assessing Damages in Ethylene Oxide Lawsuits
In the event of an ethylene oxide litigation, damages would refer to the total amount of losses related to ethylene oxide exposure and related health problems.
Damages in a potential ethylene oxide lawsuit may include:
- Medical bills
- Future medical expenses
- Lost wages or earning ability
- Permanent disability
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional damages
- Lost quality of life
- Loss of consortium
- Wrongful death
- Other compensatory and punitive damages
Every case is different and each individual client’s circumstances influence the damages able to be claimed in an ethylene oxide lawsuit.
Your attorney will help you assess and calculate total damages in your case.
TruLaw: Your Ethylene Oxide Exposure Lawyers
Hazardous air pollutants like ethylene oxide pose a severe risk to workers and communities across the United States.
If you were exposed to ethylene oxide and subsequently developed cancer or other related health issues, you may be eligible to file an ethylene oxide lawsuit claim.
Use the chatbot on this page to find out if you qualify to file a claim.
You can also contact TruLaw for a free consultation.
We are here to help you through the legal process and our team is investigating the risks of chronic exposure to the harmful chemical ethylene oxide (EtO).
Reach out to us for more information.