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U.S. EPA Settles Air Pollution Case with Temecula Medical Equipment Sterilization Company

Release Date: 5/30/2003
Contact Information: Mark Merchant, (415) 947-4297

SAN FRANCISCO -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it has requiring the Steris Company of Mentor, Ohio to pay a $50,000 penalty for releasing ethylene oxide from its Temecula, Calif. medical equipment sterilization plant.

Ethylene oxide (EtO) is classified by EPA as a hazardous air pollutant, and has antimicrobial properties that are used by Steris to sterilize surgical equipment. The federal Standards for Sterilization Facilities require companies that use more than one ton of the chemical a year drastically reduce -- by 99 percent -- the amount of EtO released into the air from the process.

Steris uses a catalytic oxidizer at its facility on Business Park Drive in Temecula to accomplish this. Between July 29 and 31 the EPA alleges the oxidizer was unable to meet the 99 percent requirement.

"Put simply, ethylene oxide emissions are toxic and contribute to the formation of smog," said Jack Broadbent, the air division director for the EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region. "They must be reduced to protect public health."

Short-term exposure to EtO mainly affects the central nervous system. Exposure over the long term can cause irritation of the eyes, skin and mucous membranes as well as damage to the brain and nerves. The EPA has classified EtO as a probable carcinogen.

With the consent agreement and final order in this case, Steris neither admits nor denies the allegations but will pay the penalty within 30 day or face additional penalties.

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