Scientists have known for decades that ethylene oxide can cause cancer and more immediate harms.

Trump's EPA encouraged companies to revise their records about a cancer-causing chemical

March 18th, 2021

Scientists have known for decades that ethylene oxide can cause cancer and more immediate harms.

Facilities emitting the cancer-causing chemical ethylene oxide appear to have changed their records during the Trump administration, The Intercept's Sharon Lerner reports. "There’s no doubt that [they] are being reviewed and reduced because there’s increased public concern,” Keri Powell, an environmental attorney, tells Lerner.

Ethylene oxide is an odorless, colorless gas that the Environmental Protection Agency has found is 30 times more carcinogenic than once known. So, reports Lerner, facilities "have a strong incentive to present lower numbers ... which people living near these plants may find reassuring and, in any case, have no way to check for accuracy."

Dr. Elena Craft, senior director for climate and health at the Environmental Defense Fund, tells Lerner, "There’s plenty of evidence showing those numbers are underestimates."

In Port Neches, Texas, home to the former Huntsman plant, now owned by Indorama and the single-largest producer of ethylene oxide in North America, that means residents are not aware of the full scope of the risk they face. Not only has the EPA and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality failed to hold public meetings or engage the community about the risks of ethylene oxide, the agencies do not have a way to estimate the cumulative impact of simultaneous, long-term exposures on the body. “It’s not just ethylene oxide, we’re also exposed to sulfur dioxide, benzene, hydrogen sulfide,” Hilton Kelley, a longtime, Port Arthur-based environmental advocate, tells Lerner. "We are being exposed to an assortment of toxins. There’s a huge cumulative impact that residents have to contend with. Cancer is ravaging our communities.”

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