Contact Us


All News Releases By Date


R.I.-Based Sterilization Firm Will Pay Fine, Undertake Air Quality Improvement Projects, to Resolve Air Violations - Projects will eliminate 235 tons of air pollution

Release Date: 08/18/2005
Contact Information:

Contact: David Deegan (, EPA Office of Public Affairs, (617) 918-1017

For Immediate Release: August 18, 2005; Release # dd050813

Boston - Cosmed Group, Inc., a national contract sterilization company headquartered in Jamestown, R.I., has agreed to pay $500,000 in penalties and spend an additional $1 million on clean air projects in four densely-populated urban areas throughout the U.S., resolving EPA claims that the company violated emission standards for ethylene oxide, a probable human carcinogen that also contributes to the formation of ground-level ozone, or “smog.”

“With today’s action, we are not only sending a message to those violating the law, but we will also achieve significant air quality improvements in four overburdened urban neighborhoods,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England regional office. “Because cancer and other serious health risks are associated with exposure to ethylene oxide, EPA will ensure that facilities comply with emission regulations for this toxic air pollutant. Following the law helps to reduce health risks and ensure that we all breathe cleaner air.”

The clean air projects that Cosmed is implementing as part of the settlement will significantly reduce air pollution and deliver important public health benefits to large populations in areas near current or former Cosmed plants. These mostly urban neighborhoods typically bear a disproportionate environmental burden.

Projects in Camden, NJ, Lake County, IL and San Diego, CA will reduce pollution from diesel vehicles and equipment through the use of advanced pollution controls and cleaner diesel fuel. A project in Dallas, TX will convert gasoline-powered school buses to run on propane, a cleaner burning fuel. In the first three years, these projects will eliminate approximately 235 tons of air pollution, including some toxic air pollutants that pose serious health concerns.

The alleged violations occurred between about 1998 and 2003 at six of Cosmed’s eight facilities, nationwide - including Baltimore, MD, Grand Prairie, TX, San Diego, CA, Coventry, RI, South Plainfield, NJ, and Waukegan, IL. EPA discovered the most serious problems at the Rhode Island, New Jersey and Illinois locations. The violations are thought to have resulted in over 30 tons of excess emissions of ethylene oxide.

"An important part of this settlement is that the company will take action to help ease air pollution in urban neighborhoods, which are those most often damaged by industrial pollution," said U.S. Attorney Robert Clark Corrente, who is based in Providence, R.I. "As we pursue those who are alleged to violate clean air standards, we must also ensure that they pay to help alleviate the overall problem."

The Consent Decree, lodged today at the U.S. District Court in Rhode Island, requires Cosmed to complete environmental audits at all eight of its current and former facilities and establish an environmental management system that will help ensure the company fully complies with environmental regulations into the future.

Ethylene oxide is a probable human carcinogen, and may cause serious reproductive harm, irritate the lungs, and damage the liver and kidneys. In addition, as a volatile organic compound, ethylene oxide also contributes to the formation of ground-level ozone. Ozone can irritate people’s respiratory systems, causing coughing and throat irritation. More seriously, exposure to ground level ozone can aggravate asthma and damage lung cells, and may cause permanent lung damage. These effects can be worse in children and people with respiratory ailments such as asthma.

Federal ethylene oxide standards apply to large facilities that use the chemical in sterilization or fumigation processes. At one time, Cosmed operated about one-third of all sterilization facilities regulated by the ethylene oxide standards. Cosmed’s operations involved sterilizing products for the food and medical industries. Early this year Cosmed sold five facilities representing its medical products sterilization operations.

The proposed consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. More information about the settlement (

More information on EPA New England enforcement (

Additional detail on the four SEP projects is available below:

Supplemental Environmental Projects
Cosmed Clean Air Enforcement Settlement
August 18,2005

Camden County, New Jersey
Retrofit of Diesel Vehicles at Wastewater Treatment Facility

This project will substantially eliminate diesel pollution from 16 non-road and highway diesel vehicles used in the operation of a large wastewater treatment facility. The facility is located in an area known as Camden Waterfront South, a community identified by EPA as an environmental justice area of concern. Vehicles will be retrofitted with diesel oxidation catalysts (DOCs) and diesel particulate matter filters (DPFs), and be fueled with ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel (ULSD). EPA estimates that the project will eliminate approximately 4.65 tons of diesel particulate (PM), 40.2 tons of carbon monoxide (CO), and 7.32 tons of hydrocarbon (HC) emissions during the first three years of the project.

Lake County, Illinois
Retrofit of Municipal Diesel Vehicles

This project will identify and retrofit diesel equipment owned and operated by specific Lake County, IL municipalities identified by EPA as having sensitive populations in potential environmental justice areas. The municipalities will use a combination of DOCs and DPFs, as well as ULSD to dramatically reduce diesel pollution. EPA estimates that the project will eliminate approximately 3.66 tons of PM, 66.23 tons of CO, and 13.2 tons of HC emissions during the first three years of the project.

San Diego, California
Retrofit of Diesel Vehicles and Equipment

This project will eliminate significant amounts of diesel particulate emissions from equipment used in the port of San Diego, dump trucks, equipment owned and operated by the City’s water department, as well as diesel-fueled auxiliary power units for heating and cooling commuter rail service trains. These retrofitted engines will have a direct impact on air quality, in neighborhoods known as Barrio Logan and Oceanside, which are neighborhoods that EPA has identified as environmental justice areas of concern. The diesel engines will be retrofitted with DPFs and use ULSD to eliminate 6.7 tons of PM, 55.7 tons of CO, and 1.7 tons of HC emissions during the first three years of the project.

Dallas County, Texas
Fuel Conversion of Schools Buses

This project will substantially elimination air pollution from a number of gasoline fueled school buses owned and operated by the Dallas County Schools, many of which operate in communities that EPA has identified as environmental justice areas. Twenty-eight to 32 gasoline powered bus engines will be converted to run on cleaner-burning propane. This conversion will eliminate approximately 34.3 tons of NOx, among other pollutants, during the first three years of the project.

Key to Acronyms:
DOC - diesel oxidation catalysts
ULSD - ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel
DPFs - diesel particulate matter filters
PM - particulate matter
CO - carbon monoxide
HC - hydrocarbon
NOx - Nitrogen Oxides

Related Information:
Compliance Assistance
and Enforcement

Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs)