EPA releases National Air Toxics Assessment update

Hide Featured Image
Shannon Barbare, Communications Specialist | 303-692-2036 | shannon.barbare@state.co.us
DENVER - Today the EPA released its latest update of the National Air Toxics Assessment that identifies pollutants in need of further examination. NATA uses computer modeling to identify potential risks from air pollutants. It is not based on actual air sampling or cancer rates.
The new assessment of ethylene oxide identified 26 facilities in the U.S. where emissions of ethylene oxide may pose an elevated potential cancer risk. One of those locations is Terumo BCT Sterilization Services, Inc. in Lakewood, where EPA computer-modeled the estimated excess cancer risk to be 500 in a million. The risk assessment assumes the increased risk is for someone with a lifetime of exposure ̶ or about 70 years.
Dr. Larry Wolk, chief medical officer and executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said, “The state health department’s cancer registry looked at cancer incidence in the area around Terumo BCT. The assessment showed cancer incidence in the area is not elevated. In addition, the state health department will conduct air sampling to better determine the potential health risk to residents in the area.
“We understand this news may worry people in the area,” said Dr. Wolk. “We are already working with Terumo BCT officials about methods to further reduce any release of ethylene oxide at its Lakewood facility.”
The state health department has looked at the prevalence of Hodgkin's lymphoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma, lymphocytic leukemia cancers and all cancers combined. These are cancer types past research has suggested may be associated with workplace inhalation exposure of ethylene oxide. We found none of these cancer types exceeded what would be expected based on comparison to statewide incidence.
Terumo BCT’s processes at its Lakewood facility include using ethylene oxide to sterilize medical devices. There has been no increase in ethylene oxide emissions from Terumo BCT, and the company is in compliance with all state and federal air pollution control requirements. Terumo BCT is permitted by the Air Pollution Control Division at the state health department and is not exceeding permitted emissions. While most emissions are highly controlled, some emissions to the atmosphere still occur.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will be taking air samples in the community surrounding Terumo BCT and conduct a health risk assessment based on those results. This is expected to be complete by mid-September. Measuring actual exposures, rather than computer-modeled exposure as in the EPA analysis will provide a more accurate picture of whether there is a potential health risk.
Dr. Mark B. Johnson, director of Jefferson County Public Health, said, “There is not an acute ̶ or short-term ̶ health risk for those living and working in the area. The computer-modeled air toxics data should not be used to pinpoint specific risks within a given area.”
The estimated risk posed by ethylene oxide was updated by EPA in late 2016. EPA determined the risk of long-term exposure to ethylene oxide is greater than previously thought. The new NATA data identified facilities in need of further study, including Terumo BCT in Lakewood.
The facility is located at 11308 W. Collins Ave., directly east of Simms Street and south of 12th Avenue in Lakewood. Community members in the vicinity who have concerns about their health can call the state health department’s toxicology call line at 303-692-2606 or send an email to cdphe_toxcall@state.co.us.
The state, Jefferson County Public Health and EPA are working together to inform the public of the NATA data. Local and state public health officials will host a community meeting, if needed, when the results of the risk assessment are complete.