The Atlanta suburbs have recently undergone harsh toxicity levels in the air, as two medical device sterilization companies have come under fire due to the hazardous emissions that are being released into the air of the surrounding areas. It was reported by WebMD that a medical device sterilization company, released more than 9,000 pounds of a gas called Ethylene Oxide in the air – near the heavily populated suburbs of Covington and Smyrna. The organic compound ethylene oxide is a chemical that is used on about half the medical products in the United States that need proper sterilization – but when this organic compound turns into a gas and is released into the air it can significantly affect both air quality and the health of those individuals exposed to this hazardous airborne compound.
Ethylene oxide is rapidly causing issues throughout certain areas of Georgia that have been tainted by the emission of this compound from the medical device sterilization companies that have introduced this hazardous compound into the air. According to 11Alive, Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD) said it will begin conducting testing for ethylene oxide levels in the air around the impacted areas of Covington and Smyrna – this comes after reports of ETO emissions from the plants in those cities spread concern for these surrounding areas near their facility.
In this article we are going to discuss more in-depth about ethylene oxide and how this organic compound can affect human health and taint indoor air quality inside of your home.
ETO Gas: What is Ethylene Oxide
The organic compound Ethylene Oxide is a chemical that is heavily used to sterilize medical equipment that is found in hospitals and in industrial settings like a factory or warehouse. Ethylene oxide is a flammable gas that will emit a sweet odor into the air when released – making it detectable to the human nose in high levels throughout the air you are breathing into your body. This organic compound is highly soluble in water and in most organic solvents – however, when it is released into the air as a gas both humidity and sunlight will cause it to break down within a few days.
The ethylene oxide structure is typically produced in large volumes and is actually used to make other chemicals like ethylene glycol – a chemical that is utilized in antifreeze and polyester. This organic compound may be found in a large array of products that may be unknown to many of us, and when this chemical is present in high levels it can be hazardous to human health and therefore monitoring your indoor air quality for high levels of this gas is critical to protecting indoor air and those occupants in this indoor environment.
Ethylene Oxide Production & Uses
If you have never heard of ethylene oxide before or understand its potential hazards to the environment, which many people will not, you will be absolutely astonished to learn of the enormous use of this chemical in everyday products that we use or come into contact with throughout the average day. Although ethylene oxide is mainly used for the sterilization of medical equipment, there are many other uses for this chemical and even other chemicals that are formed from this hazardous ethylene oxide compound – which only increases the potential for human exposure to this gaseous compound in the air.
Consumer products that contain ethylene oxide that humans will be exposed to include tobacco, food, and spices that are often fumigated with this organic compound for sterilization. Additionally, ethylene oxide is used in the production of synthetic fibers that are used throughout the home in carpeting and upholstered furniture, along with in plastics, PVC pipes, and in cosmetics – which when all of these products containing this chemical are present in the home it can lead to elevated levels of ethylene oxide that is being breathed in by occupants.
As we discussed earlier, ethylene oxide can be used to construct other chemicals like ethylene glycol that may be used in a plethora of other items and materials found throughout the home and other personal indoor spaces. Most ethylene oxide is used in factory settings where it is produced and utilized. Wherever ethylene oxide is produced or used, you should expect it to be releases as a gas into the air and water in the environment – this will lead to potential health issues for workers in this setting.
Ethylene Oxide Environmental Impact
Ethylene Oxide can be leaked or spilled into the environment, which is very dangerous and can contribute to ethylene oxide environmental impact issues, but it can also be produced naturally from a few sources found throughout the environment. There are certain plants that will produce ethylene that will become degraded to ethylene oxide in the environment. Other natural sources of ethylene oxide emissions are minimal risks to air quality and human health. However, there are some instances of ethylene oxide emissions in the environment that will lead to major issues – like high levels of emissions of ETO from factories that produce the toxic gas, as we discussed earlier that have created the strict ethylene oxide regulations set in place by the EPA.
Is Ethylene Oxide Toxic to Humans?
Generally, environmental agencies and public health offices have found that the likeliness of becoming exposed to the ethylene oxide is very small – as this compound is not commonly found in water and there are limited releases of high levels of ethylene oxide into the environment. Typically, it was found that the major risk of human exposure to this chemical is from those who work in a factory or industrial setting that produces and utilizes this compound in their work. However, after the recent news of a massive release of ethylene oxide from a plant in Smyrna, Georgia, that reportedly emitted thousands of pounds of this hazardous, cancer-causing gas into the air that has led to a whole community at risk of developing dangerous health problems from this alarming level of ethylene oxide in the air – both outdoors and indoors.
The health effects from ethylene oxide can vary significant depending on the amount of exposure, the level of ethylene oxide in the environment, and the size of the space that is impacted by this potentially hazardous chemical compound. ETO can enter into the body when air containing the substances is inhaled or ingested into the body and into the lungs. Once a person has been exposed to the chemical it can produce an array of symptoms in the body including respiratory issues and even prolong exposure can lead to the development of cancer in some cases. After a person has been exposed to ETO it will leave the body through the urine or feces, or by breathing it out through the lungs – usually this occurs within 2 to 3 days of initial exposure.
Ethylene Oxide Exposure Symptoms
Prior to the ethylene oxide emissions in Georgia, there was another alarming case of high emissions of ETO in the air in Willowbrook, Illinois from the same company that now faces heat in Georgia. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health performed testing on 18,000 of these sterilizer facility workers in Willowbrook to determine the potential effects of this chemical on human health when present in large quantities in the air. Many workers experienced nausea, vomiting, bronchitis, pulmonary edema, emphysema, and even miscarriages from just short-term exposure to this environment with increased levels of ETO in the air. Furthermore, it was found with long-term exposure to lower levels of ethylene oxide for several months to a year produced irritation of the eyes, skin, and respiratory passages and also effected the nervous system – headaches, nausea, memory loss, and numbness.
Ethylene oxide can also become exposed through skin contact, which can result in significant health effects that will impact the skin and overall health. When ethylene oxide comes into contact on human skin it will lead to blisters and burns that have been similarly compared to frostbite. The longer that an individual is exposed to ETO through the skin, the more significant the reaction will be on this organ of the body. Additionally, ETO can damage the eyes and will lead to severe health risks when exposure directly occurs between ethylene oxide and your eyes – so avoid contact at all cost.
How Long Does ETO Stay in the Air
A biq question when it comes to ETO is how far can ethylene oxide travel in the air? Similar to other Volatile Organic Compounds, Ethylene Oxide will become emitted into a gas at room temperature and float throughout the airspace – leading to a negative impact on indoor air quality and adverse health effects on those occupants of the home breathing in this contaminated air. This human carcinogen will be emitted into the air and quickly breaks down when released – as it reacts with water vapor and sunlight to break down the compound within a few days. However, indoor environments may be different as there may not be as much sunlight and water presence to aid in the deconstruction and removal of this organic compound in the air. The EPA stated that its estimated half-life in the atmosphere is 69 days (during the summer months) to 149 days (during the winter months).
Tracking the levels of ethylene oxide within the indoor air of your home is hard to gage without the help of an air quality monitor that estimates the overall levels of different airborne pollutants. The Foobot is a smart indoor air quality monitor that is designed to help you keep track of the air around you – measuring humidity, temperature, carbon dioxide, and toxic chemicals (VOCs) like ethylene oxide in your indoor environment. The LEDs on the Foobot offer a quick snapshot of your current air quality through the use of an app on your phone that will show you an estimation of pollutant levels in your home, easily. The Foobot instantly shares data, as well as keeping track of the data levels over time so you can see a progression of your indoor air quality.
Ethylene Oxide Treatment for Indoor Air Pollution
The elevated levels of ethylene oxide in Smyrna and Covington Georgia has led to air quality testing that has illustrated the dangers that loom in these areas and for those who have homes close to these industrial plants that are producing ETO into the air. The Georgia Environmental Protection Department conducted testing last month in these impacted areas and it found that there were .309 micrograms per cubic meter of ethylene oxide in the air at a South DeKalb monitoring station (which is more than 20 miles from both of these plants producing ETO) – 15 times the level the EPA estimates a lifetime of exposure would raise a person’s cancer risks to 100- in-a-million. As there is more testing conducted in these areas the EPA ethylene oxide limits will become established and regulated to industrial factories that are producing ETO in their facilities.
These alarming health risks have had many people in or near these surrounding areas of the plants to search for air quality products that they can integrate into their home that will offer a level of protection from the ETO that can potentially infiltrate the indoor air of their personal indoor environments. Air quality products like high-efficiency, VOC eliminating HVAC filters and air purifiers have proven to work extraordinarily well in toxic indoor environments that have been compromised by hazardous airborne compounds.
The type of HVAC filter that you use in your home is important, as the contaminants and compounds that float in your air will pass through this filter in an attempt to collect those hazardous pollutants from the air – and when you have a cheap filter in place in your HVAC you are exposing yourself to potential threats in your air like ethylene oxide. The EnviroKlenz HVAC Filter is able to contain and neutralize an array of chemical VOCs like ethylene oxide from the air that come into contact with the proprietary earth mineral technology on the filter media of the HVAC filter. The EnviroKlenz technology is made with earth minerals that are capable of capturing and destroying harmful compounds in the air that could circulate in the air and cause health reactions and effects. Additionally, this filter can last for up to 3 months in your air handling system, offering you continual protection and elimination of these hazardous chemicals from the air.
Air Purifier for Removing Ethylene Oxide Gas in the Air
Another treatment for ethylene oxide gas pollution in your indoor home is by using air purification that will work to pull in the contaminated indoor air and filtrate it within the purification system. There are a long list of air purifiers and air purifier technologies that are contained within these devices to aid in the air filtration process, however, very few of these air purification technologies work to actually break down and neutralize noxious odors and VOCs from the air like the EnviroKlenz Air Purifier can in an indoor environment.
EnviroKlenz, as we stated above, uses a patented earth mineral technology that is used to contain and neutralize many different chemicals like ethylene oxide from the air, especially during events like ethylene oxide spills or releases. Research and laboratory data have demonstrated EnviroKlenz’s capability to initiate the adsorption of ethylene oxide in a well-controlled fashion at ambient temperature. Due to the intrinsic nature of the EnviroKlenz formulation, ethylene oxide can be readily adsorbed and decomposed to form stable metal alkoxides through either a base or acid catalytic pathway.
The EnviroKlenz Air Purifier contains a two-stage filtration process that contains and removes noxious odors, VOCs, and airborne particulates from the air. The first stage filtration is the EnviroKlenz Air Cartridge that contains the proprietary earth mineral technology that will work to contain and break down/neutralize noxious odors, chemical compounds, and VOCs from the air. This is accomplished without the use of chemicals or masking agents, and without the production of byproducts into the air like other air purifier technologies create during use. The second-stage filtration is a hospital-grade HEPA filter that works to capture particulate matter larger than 0.3 microns in size at a 99.99 percent efficiency. The EnviroKlenz Air Cartridge will last for up to 6 months depending on the toxicity of the environment, and the HEPA filter will last for up to two years of use – leaving minimal replacement costs unlike other air purifiers.
As this air purifier runs inside of your home it will continuously work to filter these contaminants from the air and provide your home a safe barrier from hazardous compounds like ethylene oxide that threatens to enter into your home’s walls and significantly impact the health of all those exposed to this environment.
Mobile Air System
✓ Patented earth mineral technology works to attack VOCs and break them down on a compound level
✓ No chemicals or masking agents
✓ Will not release any chemicals back into your environment
✓ Safer and faster at removing VOC’s than traditional carbon filters and PECO air purifiers