November 24, 2020

EPA Requests Public Comment on Ethylene Oxide Draft Risk Assessment

On Nov. 20, EPA released a draft risk assessment of ethylene oxide (EtO) for public comment. The draft risk assessment is part of the agency’s registration review process for pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Every 15 years, EPA reviews the potential human health and environmental effects associated with the use of a pesticide. EtO, a widely used medical sterilant, is considered an antimicrobial pesticide under FIFRA. During its evaluation of available information about the toxicity of EtO, EPA found that inhaling the gas over many decades “can cause cancer risks of concern.”

“The draft risk assessment…presents multiple analyses that capture a wide range of possible levels of EtO that could affect a person's risk of getting cancer from long-term, chronic exposures to EtO, either in the workplace or through the outdoor air,” EPA explains in its press release. “Therefore, additional mitigation measures are necessary to protect the health of workers and surrounding communities.”

EPA will accept comments on the draft risk assessment until Jan. 19, 2021. The draft risk assessment can be downloaded from the docket on, and further details are published in the Federal Register.

Another draft document on EtO is available for comment from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). The new draft toxicological profile for EtO, published on Sept. 30, describes its toxicology and adverse health effects. The deadline to submit comments on ATSDR’s draft toxicological profile for EtO is Dec. 29, 2020.

Related: An industrial hygienist from a consulting firm that participated in the sampling of EtO in the Willowbrook, Illinois, community discussed his experiences as part of a prerecorded virtual session at AIHce EXP 2020. The case drew national attention and resulted in the shuttering of a Willowbrook facility.