Rep. Wild Requests Formal Health Consultation from the CDC of Ethylene Oxide in Lehigh County

July 22, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representative Susan Wild (PA-07) requested a formal Health Consultation from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of ethylene oxide pollution levels in Lehigh County. Ethylene oxide (EtO), a gas commonly used to sterilize medical equipment, is linked to cancers including breast cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and others.


“The health and safety of my constituents comes first, and they should not have to worry that the air they breathe will make them sick, which is why I’m doing everything I can to get updated data on how the pollution from this chemical could be affecting our communities,” Wild said. “I wrote to the CDC in February asking for an immediate and updated study of this chemical exposure, and recently received a response that did not provide any information specifically addressing our district. I am now making a request for a formal Health Consultation by the CDC for our district to ensure we have current data on how this chemical may be affecting our neighborhoods right here in Lehigh County. As we learn more about the specific impacts on our community, I’ll be working closely with my colleagues in some of the other affected states on legislative solutions to protect our communities from dangerous toxins.”


As reported last week, B. Braun, a medical and pharmaceutical device company with a plant in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, accounted for 92% of all of Pennsylvania’s ethylene oxide emissions in 2014, putting more than 41,000 residents near its plant at a higher risk of developing cancer under the federal standard. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) believes there may be an elevated health risk in areas surrounding the B. Braun facility, and contacted the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) with their concerns on July 10.


“As the Representative of the people of Lehigh County, I am requesting a formal Health Consultation from the ATSDR for an evaluation of potential health impacts for ethylene oxide emissions in Lehigh and Northampton Counties,” Wild wrote in her letter to Dr. Patrick Breysse, Director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). “Lehigh County was included among the 18 counties listed in the National Air Toxic Assessment in August of 2018 with EtO emissions exceeding the EPA’s reasonable risk threshold of 100 excess cancer cases per million people. I look forward to receiving follow-up information on results of or plans for current and future monitoring of the atmospheric levels of EtO in my district.”


In February, Wild cosigned a letter to Dr. Breysse urging a nationwide exposure study to determine the extent to which Americans are subject to elevated levels of ethylene oxide (EtO) emissions.


Wild also cosponsored the Expanding Transparency of Information and Safeguarding Toxics Act of 2019 echoing these concerns and updating the requirements for chemicals that pose an adverse public health risk. This bill requires the EPA to publish an updated National Air Toxics Assessment once every two years which uses emissions data to estimate health risks from toxic air pollutants.