The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) announced that it will be taking steps to advance transparency, environmental justice, and increase the public’s access to environmental information through its Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) program. As part of the announcement, the EPA said it would be expanding the scope of TRI reporting requirements for Ethylene Oxide (EtO).
The EPA’s announcement comes as claims alleging exposure to EtO emitted from industrial facilities in the US continue to grow. The cases in this emerging area of litigation allege that residents and workers surrounding the facilities have been exposed to levels of EtO that caused them to suffer latent personal injuries and loss of property value. According to the USEPA, EtO is used as a chemical intermediate in the manufacture of antifreeze, textiles, detergents, polyurethane foam, solvents, medicine, adhesives, other products, and in hospital sterilization efforts.
According to the EPA, they are “expanding the scope of TRI reporting requirements to include additional chemicals and facilities, including facilities that are not currently reporting on ethylene oxide (EtO) releases, and providing new tools to make TRI data more accessible to the public. TRI is a resource for learning about annual chemical releases, waste management, and pollution prevention activities reported by nearly 22,000 industrial and federal facilities.”
Specifically, the EPA will expand the TRI reporting to include certain contract sterilizers using EtO for medical devices, especially for facilities located in areas with Environmental Justice concerns. According to the EPA, workers in facilities that use EtO and communities—including historically underserved communities—living adjacent to these facilities, are at the highest risks from exposure to EtO. The EPA stated that “making more information available about releases of EtO will assist the agency in identifying and responding to any human health and environmental threats they cause.”
The EPA’s announcement can be found here.