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EPA and WVDEP holds public meeting to discuss ethylene oxide

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 11:33 PM EDT
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KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) - As more details unfold on ethylene oxide spreading not just across the country, but right here in our region, conversations to better understand these emissions are being held.

On Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  (EPA) and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) held a public meeting to discuss the risks of ethylene oxide emissions in South Charleston and Institute.

“Short-term exposure can cause eye, skin, respiratory irritation, headache, nausea. Long-term exposures can cause cancer,” said Alice Chow with the EPA.

There are several local facilities in these areas that produce ethylene oxide, which is a flammable, colorless gas used in a range of products including textiles and plastics.

Chow said workers in these facilities are at greatest risk of exposure, but they’re not alone.

“People who live near these facilities may also be exposed to ethylene oxide in the outdoor air,” Chow said.

Chow says short-term exposure to ethylene oxide is not cause for alarm.

However, breathing in these emissions over many years can increase the risk of some types of cancer.

“A person exposed breathing ethylene oxide for 24 hours a day for 70 years,” Chow said.

To begin, officials say they will start monitoring the air in South Charleston and Institute during the next several months as part of a longer-term plan to combat the problem.

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