Guest Opinion: EPA targeting Sandy medical facility over bogus environmental concerns

Have you ever noticed if you wait long enough whatever was once good for you eventually becomes bad? And people who are so insistent they’re saving the planet don’t mind ruining the world in the process? 

DDT saved the world from literal plagues of locusts, but so first-world environmentalists could feel like heroes, they banned it – condemning the developing world to malaria. In the 1990s, similar bureaucrats went to great lengths to save the endangered spotted owl … caused forest fires in their habitats. 

The operative idiom for that last one might be “they don’t see the forest for the trees,” but a more apt one might be “shooting yourself in the foot.” 

That’s what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is doing with a chemical called ethylene oxide (EtO), a colorless gas used in antifreeze, plastics, and a variety of other compounds. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA restricted the use of EtO, and in July of this year, the agency targeted 23 facilities nationwide – including one here in Sandy, BD Medical – on the basis that EtO causes an elevated risk of cancer for those living near said facilities. 

Naturally, this allegation has caused some concern, not just for BD Medical’s neighbors but for the 1,200 people who work for them. 

So, before we let unaccountable Washington bureaucrats “save the world” the way they did for mosquitoes and spotted owls, let’s look at the science behind EPA’s most recent report (rather than The Science™).

First, EtO is found all around us. It’s emitted from everyday products we all use like charcoal grills and lawn mowers. It comes from fire pits. Even decaying plants and the human body emit EtO as part of their natural processes. As a result, when EPA has done air monitoring readings in the past to try to detect levels of EtO, they have found higher-than-expected levels of EtO in areas where there are no facilities using EtO. 

Second, we know that exposure to high levels of EtO, just like any other chemical, is harmful. That’s why companies that use EtO comply with strict regulations to protect neighbors and employees with regular testing. In fact, often companies do more to control emissions than is even required of them by state or federal laws. That’s not PR from the company’s website, that’s from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)

What’s more, buried in EPA’s assessment is this critical qualifier: their predictions are for a “worst-case scenario.” To be at risk, a person would have to be in EPA’s defined area for 24 hours a day for 70 years! 

In other words, 87 million other things (including old age) will kill you before EtO gets a chance. 

Furthermore, the EPA isn’t talking about the dangers of not using EtO. 

Hospitals, emergency rooms, clinics, and medical facilities across the globe rely on EtO to minimize risk of infection for patients who need c-sections, biopsies, catheters, or an IV. To be precise, over 20 billion medical devices are sterilized using EtO annually and, for many of those, EtO is the only way to sterilize them. EtO is particularly important for sterilizing equipment, like plastic devices, that can’t be cleaned with steam. 

Routine disinfection protocols ensure that patients don’t contract entirely preventable infections when they go in for procedures. Failing to give the full context regarding EtO and this EPA report doesn’t just cause panic, but it threatens this important rung of the health care ladder.

At a time when the country is already facing serious supply chain issues affecting our health care sector, we cannot afford to further jeopardize patient safety by penalizing local companies that are following all the rules – and even doing more. 

One wonders if the EPA remembers that time we had a pandemic for two years that was going to kill us all unless we sterilized everything? If anyone in the community would like to remind them, next month the EPA will host a meeting for Sandy community members interested in learning more about the agency’s recent conclusions regarding the BD Medical facility. After all, residents deserve facts over fear. We don’t want to let distant activists ruin our state while they’re trying to save the planet.