Residents near a Lakewood biotech manufacturing site can breathe a little easier now, after air tests showed the air around the building did not contain noticeably higher levels of a cancerous air …
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Any residents who have questions about ethylene oxide exposure can call the state health department’s toxicology call line at 303-692-2606, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Residents near a Lakewood biotech manufacturing site can breathe a little easier now, after air tests showed the air around the building did not contain noticeably higher levels of a cancerous air toxin.
Back in August, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's updated its National Air Toxins Assessment that listed Terumo BCT, a medical device factory in Lakewood, as one of 26 places in the country where emissions of ethylene oxide could pose an elevated risk of cancer based on lifetime exposure.
That report, based on estimated emissions of ethylene oxide, triggered a community risk assessment on Dec. 3 by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). The Colorado study of actual air emissions around the Terumo building found ethylene oxide levels were not significantly higher than baseline readings for the area.
The CDPHE targeted eight locations near Terumo BCT, whose headquarters are located at 11308 W. Collins Ave., for air samplings, where modeling showed ethylene oxide would be most impactful.
According to the CDPHE study, there was a “significant reduction” in ethylene oxide around Terumo BCT, after the company reviewed its own systems following the EPA warning, ranging from a two, to fivefold reduction.
Data from the risk assessment shows that one of the sites with the highest levels of ethylene oxide contained 1.6 parts per billion of the toxin, before the company installed new emission controls. Following that, ethylene oxide in that same site dropped to .4 parts per billion. The average regional parts per billion of ethylene oxide is a little bellow .2 parts per billion.
“It was paramount for us to reduce our emissions. We took a new view at our emissions, and we immediately acted to put these emissions through our emission control system,” said Tom Gulland, the director of factory operations for Terumo BCT.
Terumo BCT uses ethylene oxide, a flammable gas used to create other chemicals, to sterilize medical devices. Terumo BCT was not exceeding permitted emissions, according to the CDPHE — but the company still took steps to reduce the amount of ethylene oxide it was putting in the air.
Exposure to ethylene oxide may be linked to Hodgkin's lymphoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, multiple myeloma, breast and lymphocytic leukemia cancers. According to the risk assessment, the rates of those cancers in the area surrounding Terumo BCT were no different than expected, based on cancer rates in the rest of the state from 2000 to 2017.
While there isn't evidence that there is more cancer in the area of Terumo BCT, state health officials say breathing low levels of ethylene oxide over a lifetime, similar to what was detected near the medical device manufacturing's facility may lead to a small increased risk of cancer. However, it could take decades for data to show whether the increased risk does lead to increased rate of cancer.
“It is very difficult to pinpoint a specific cause for cancers, because there are so many underlying factors that can also increase a person's risk,” said Dr. Mark B. Johnson, director of Jefferson County Public Health.
Any residents who have questions about ethylene oxide exposure can call the state health department’s toxicology call line at 303-692-2606, or can email email@example.com.
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