Facility Safety Management

Weekly E-Newsletter

May 29, 2007

Has the tide turned on ethylene oxide?

By  Michael D. Shaw

Back in January, the Environmental Protection Agency presented its draft “Evaluation of the Carcinogenicity of Ethylene Oxide.” On hand were members of affected industry, along with the Agency’s own Science Advisory Board (SAB).

While the negative reaction of industry was expected, few anticipated that the SAB would also harshly attack the report.

Stung by this bruising rejection, EPA has to adjust some of the findings. We now discover that the Agency has contracted the services of Dr. Kyle Steenland, Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.

According to EPA, Dr. Steenland “…has unique qualifications to provide assistance to the Agency in the evaluation of the carcinogenicity of ethylene oxide.”

The Agency continues:  “He has devoted a significant part of his career to the study and evaluation of the effects of ethylene oxide on humans and has published extensively on the epidemiology of ethylene oxide related effects and methodology for analyzing data that relate to these effects.”

This is a major development since even though the Agency—in its own words— “…relied heavily on the work of Dr. Steenland and his colleagues in preparing the draft,” they have always taken a far more alarmist view toward this chemical than Steenland.