Letter: Latest data suggests sterilization process is safe

Updated 8/15/2022 8:57 PM

Ethylene oxide (EtO) has been used for over a century and removes bacteria from materials and foods without causing the damage that occurs with other methods, such as high temperatures or acids. This is how half of the medical devices sold in the U.S. are sterilized, making EtO of critical importance to the medical community -- a community that has been overextended even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic -- when it comes to health standards and efficient sterilization of equipment.

Notwithstanding decades of safe ethylene oxide use, the EPA has come under pressure to ban or highly regulate it, partially due to an International Agency for Research on Cancer statement that ethylene oxide is linked to various cancers. In late 2022, the EPA will propose new regulations for emissions from medical device sterilization. We urge the agency to consider the findings of a newly published systematic review as it assesses the science in preparation for this update.


A Center for Truth in Science-funded systematic review of ethylene oxide research was recently published in the journal Chemico-Biological Interactions. It concluded that cancer and ethylene oxide do not have a clear or consistent link, and that there is no good evidence ethylene oxide is associated with increased risk for cancer in humans at levels of exposure cited in existing studies.

Put simply, there is a lack of evidence of ethylene oxide's association with cancer at relevant levels of occupational exposure.

The EPA needs to consider the latest science, including the findings of this systematic review. This review is extremely relevant to the concerns of people who live near or work at sterilization facilities, and the medical community who regularly use products sterilized by the gas.

Jacob Traverse, President & CEO

Center for Truth in Science

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