Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Terumo BCT Sterilization Services in Lakewood is one of 26 places in the country where emissions of ethylene oxide may pose an …
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Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Terumo BCT Sterilization Services in Lakewood is one of 26 places in the country where emissions of ethylene oxide may pose an elevated risk for cancer.
The news left some residents concerned and questioning why the facility had been using ethylene oxide in the first place.
“There’s reasons why you have filtration systems. I think that overall, people aren’t really focused on protecting the environment,” Lakewood resident Bill Foltyn said. “Not when it comes to jobs and hardship.”
Terumo BCT, a company that manufactures medical devices to treat critically ill patients, is making progress toward reducing emissions of ethylene oxide, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).
The company completed the installation of additional ethylene oxide controls, and CDPHE said last week that preliminary assessments suggest emissions have been significantly reduced. Terumo BCT uses ethylene oxide to sterilize its medical devices.
The medical device manufacture’s ethylene oxide emissions were controlled at 30 percent of its EPA permit limit, according to CDPHE. Tom Gulland, director of Terumo BCT’s factory operations, said the company made it a priority to reduce its ethylene oxide emissions once the EPA released its findings.
“It’s important that everyone realizes that we live here, we play here and we raise our kids here. This is as important to us as anything that we do here,” Gulland said.
The EPA originally released a National Air Toxics Assessment last month that listed Terumo BCT as the only Colorado facility where emissions of ethylene oxide could pose a threat to the public. The assessment didn’t take any actual air sampling, or cancer rates. Instead, it was based off computer modeling.
CDPHE communications director Mark Salley said the department will conduct more air sampling away from the facility and neighborhood to better understand background levels of ethylene oxide. He said the department is still gathering more information on how effective the installed air emission controls at Terumo BCT have been.
“Once we have completed our air sampling, and have fully evaluated the data, we will release a report with the results of the air sampling. Because more samples are being taken, it will be several weeks before the report is finalized,” Salley said.
Exposure to ethylene oxide over a longer period of time can irritate the eyes, skin, lungs, nose and throat, according to the EPA. Headaches, memory loss and numbness can also be a side effect.
Long-term exposure to ethylene oxide can increase the risk of certain cancers, but CDPHE said it has not found an elevated level of cancer in the area of Terumo.
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