BD Medical Sterilization Facility

Background

Ethylene oxide (EtO) is a colorless and odorless flammable gas. It is most commonly used to make ethylene glycol (a chemical used to make antifreeze and polyester). It is also used to sterilize medical equipment and supplies, drugs, food products, and as an insecticide to control insects in some stored agricultural products (for example, spices and herbs). Breathing in ethylene oxide at certain levels over decades may cause an increased risk of certain types of cancers and other health impacts.   

New cancer risk value

In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) updated their cancer risk value for ethylene oxide in air to be more protective of human health. It is a measure of the relative potency of a carcinogen from inhalation exposure to estimate increases in cancer cases in a human population.

Based on the new cancer risk value,  modeled data from EPA’s National Air Toxics Assessment (released in August 2018) found ethylene oxide emissions from 25 commercial sterilizer facilities posed an elevated cancer risk in several census tracts. This assessment identified Sandy, Utah as an at risk community due to the location of the BD Medical sterilization facility at 9450 South State Street. At the request of the Salt Lake County Health Department (SLCoHD) the Utah Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Environmental Epidemiology Program (EEP) is conducting a public health consultation and statistical review of EtO-related cancers in the Sandy community surrounding the sterilization facility.

BD Medical is not violating any current air pollution control requirements and has shared plans to voluntarily make upgrades to significantly reduce the amount of ethylene oxide released into the air. The more protective risk level and the 2018 air toxics assessment led to the need for additional study. This webpage will be updated periodically with the most current results and information. 

You can learn more about chemical exposure and cancer risk by reading ATSDR’s fact sheet. For more information and resources check out the links below. 

This map shows EPA’s estimates of lifetime cancer risks from EtO near BD Medical in Sandy, UT. As you can see from the map risk decreases with distance from the facility.

The area in blue shows estimated lifetime cancer risks of 100 in a million or greater from breathing air containing EtO emitted from the facility (or the same as 1 additional cancer case in 10,000 people). A lifetime cancer risk of 100 in a million means that, if 1 million people were exposed to this level of EtO in the air 24 hours a day for 70 years, 100 people would be expected to develop cancer from that exposure.

The area in dark blue on the map shows that EtO exposure could contribute to a maximum increased risk level of 30 cancer cases if 10,000 people were exposed for 70 years (or 3,000 in 1 million). EPA cannot predict whether an individual person will develop cancer.

Documents

EtO Study & Risk Assessment Community Meeting (August 17, 2022)