According to the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, Linden, New Jersey has been exposed to the carcinogen ethylene oxide.
ETO (Ethylene Oxide) Plant #2 uses EtO to sterilize spices. The plant is located at 2500 Brunswick Avenue in Linden.
A risk assessment performed on July 27, 2022, identified elevated cancer risk to the community of Linden surrounding ETO Plant #2 as the plant violates the EPA’s guidelines for emissions. Now, the volume of EtO being emitted by ETO Plant #2 is making neighboring residents severely ill.
A map on the EPA website outlines the area surrounding ETO Plant #2 with the greatest risk of being affected by the carcinogenic ethylene oxide being emitted.
“At room temperature, ethylene oxide is a flammable colorless gas with a sweet odor. It is used primarily to produce other chemicals, including antifreeze. In smaller amounts, ethylene oxide is used as a pesticide and a sterilizing agent. The ability of ethylene oxide to damage DNA makes it an effective sterilizing agent but also accounts for its cancer-causing activity,” according to Cancer.gov.
Lymphoma and Leukemia are the two most common cancers associated with exposure to Ethylene Oxide. Ingestion of the cancerous gas occurs via inhalation and is most commonly reported in occupational and environmental settings – working in or living near a factory where the chemical is used.
More information on the substance and the consequences of its use can be found here. New Jersey’s first record of Ethylene Oxides' potential for hazard was reported in 2002, twenty years before the EPA’s fact-finding discovery regarding ETO Plant #2 of Linden, New Jersey.
As for what the EPA is doing about the situation:
- “Now: EPA is working with the State of New Jersey to reduce emissions at ETO Sterilization-Plant #2. EPA has provided technical support to our air agency partners at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection as part of this work. EPA last inspected the facility on November 10, 2020, and there were no known violations. The Agency is reviewing controls on regulated equipment and processes that emit EtO to determine whether additional air pollution controls are needed. This review includes examining new developments in practices, processes, and control technologies, considering cost and feasibility, as well as addressing any previously unregulated emission points.
- Soon: Later this year, EPA will propose strengthening current regulations for Ethylene Oxide Commercial Sterilizers. EPA will consider risk as part of the proposed regulations.”