EPA flags Richmond business for cancer-causing emissions |

EPA flags Richmond business for cancer-causing emissions

A Richmond company has been flagged by the EPA for chemical emissions that may be dangerous for residents within a three-mile radius. Sterilization Services of Virginia sits in an industrial park in the East End of Richmond, and is one of 23 sites that have been flagged by the EPA for high levels of ethylene oxide emissions.  

smoke stack shooting smoke above a treeline

What is ethylene oxide? 

Ethylene oxide (EtO) is a gas, with multiple uses, such as: 

  • Pesticide or fumigant (in lower amounts)  
  • Sterilizer within the health care industry  

Sterilization Services of Virginia uses this gas to sanitize medical equipment. 

What illnesses are linked to ethylene oxide? 

EtO is known to increase the risk of breast and lymph cancer if inhaled over a long time period. Additionally, a 2016 study from the EPA found EtO to be 30 times more cancer-causing than previously reported. This increases to 50 times more for those exposed at birth, meaning that young children and infants are at the greatest risk.  

sterilization services EPA emissions

Image courtesy of the EPA

The dangers posed by the Richmond facility  

  • If a community such as the one surrounding the sterilization site was to inhale the gas 24 hours a day for 70 years, at least 1 in 10,000 people would develop related cancer.  
  • If one lives closer in proximity to the site where the gas is being emitted, the cancer risk increases to 1 in 1,000.  
  • The Henrico site shows a pollution radius of over 2 miles from the epicenter at the sterilization facility. 
  • About 32,105 people live within a 3-mile radius of the facility.  
  • Approximately 8,472 of these residents are children under the age of 17. 

Even more concerning is the five-year data for emission rates from the Eastport facility. Tracked by ProPublica, the data shows that the average lifetime cancer risk for the area surrounding the facility is 1 in 1,800. This is more than five times greater than the acceptable risk level of 1 in 10,000 set by the EPA.  

children running through a park

What is being done about ethylene oxide emissions in Richmond?  

The EPA has flagged this facility and plans to hold a community outreach meeting for Henrico in October or November. They will invite interested parties to sign up through its website.  

The EPA has also stated that the most effective way of dealing with the issue is to reduce the amount of EtO that facilities are allowed to release into the air. Unfortunately, this process takes time, as it requires the implementation of new legislation. The EPA has begun reviewing the Clean Air Act and will likely propose new regulations by the end of the year, followed by new legislation in 2023.  

Though businesses rarely improve emissions standards of their own volition, the EPA says they are working to encourage the flagged facilities to reduce emissions.  

If you or a loved one have suffered from toxic exposure due to the negligence of another person or company, you may be entitled to recover monetary damages. To discuss your potential case, call Allen & Allen today at 866-388-1307 for a free consultation.