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EPA tells Terumo plant in Lakewood to slash emissions of cancer-causing gas by 2026

A Lakewood business that sterilizes medical equipment with cancer-causing ethylene oxide must slash its air emissions after the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday told all companies that use the toxic gas to cut their pollution by 90% within two years.

Terumo Blood and Cell Technologies manufactures equipment used in blood donations and transfusions, and in stem cell donations, at a facility located at 11308 W. Collins Ave. in Lakewood. The company sterilizes that equipment with ethylene oxide in a plant on the same campus.

In 2022, the EPA announced it was studying ethylene oxide emissions and how they cause elevated cancer risk, and the federal agency identified Terumo’s Lakewood location as a facility where cancer risks were elevated for the surrounding community.

The EPA said in a news release Thursday that its new rules would reduce lifetime cancer risks for people who live near Terumo and other facilities that use ethylene oxide, or EtO.

“The final amendments to the air toxics standards for ethylene oxide commercial sterilization facilities put in place the strongest measures in U.S. history to reduce emissions of EtO, one of the most potent cancer-causing chemicals,” the EPA news release stated.

Previously, the EPA did not regulate ethylene oxide emissions from building leaks and chamber exhaust vents, but that will change under the new rules, according to the news release.

The new rules also will strengthen emissions standards for other exhaust vents at sterilization facilities, and they will require continuous monitoring and quarterly reporting so nearby residents, local governments and state air regulators can better track emissions.

Terumo meets or exceeds every state and federal standard for ethylene oxide use and will continue to do so, the company said in a statement on its website. When the EPA announced its review of ethylene oxide emissions in 2022, the agency said Terumo’s plant was not in violation of any current regulatory standards.

Terumo is building a new $22 million air emissions control system on its Lakewood campus. However, it was unclear Thursday whether that system would meet the EPA’s new emissions standards once it comes online.

Officials were reading the new 400-page rule to figure out how it will impact the company, said Christine Romero, a Terumo spokeswoman.

Terumo converts its leftover ethylene oxide into ethylene glycol, which is then recycled as a primary ingredient in antifreeze.

The company, which has its headquarters in Tokyo, also owns a manufacturing plant in Douglas County, but it sends equipment made there to Lakewood to be sterilized.

Terumo faces multiple lawsuits in Colorado from people who blame their cancers on the company’s ethylene oxide emissions. The number of lawsuits filed against the company increased after the EPA identified the area around the facility as having an increased risk for cancers.

Ethylene oxide can cause breast cancer and blood cancers such as leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and myeloma

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