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EPA finalizes rule limiting ethylene oxide emissions from commercial sterilizers

March 14, 2024


EPA finalizes rule limiting ethylene oxide emissions from commercial sterilizers

[Washington, D.C] – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its final rule today to limit emissions of ethylene oxide (EtO) from facilities that sterilize medical equipment and some dried food products. According to the FDA, approximately 50% of sterile medical devices in the U.S. are sterilized with EtO. 

Ethylene oxide is one of the most toxic air pollutants that EPA regulates and is highly carcinogenic. Nearly 14 million people in the United States and Puerto Rico live within five miles of a commercial sterilizer, Many people living near commercial sterilizers are people of color, people with low incomes, and/or people with limited English language proficiency. Children are particularly sensitive to ethylene oxide’s harmful effects. 

In response to the final rule, the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments Executive Director Katie Huffling, DNP, RN, CNM, FAAN issued the following statement: 

“Nurses welcome today’s final ruling and its health protective emission reductions. Today’s rule was the culmination of years of advocacy by communities and workers who have been shouldering the burden of harmful ethylene oxide exposure. Communities should not have to carry the burden of ensuring that facilities control cancer-causing air emissions. Nurses will continue to push the EPA so that this rule succeeds in reducing ethylene oxide pollution expeditiously and protects public health.” 

Today’s final rule will require all sterilizer facilities to reduce emissions by installing new control technologies within the next two to three years. According to EPA, these safeguards will eliminate an estimated 90% of ethylene oxide emissions once fully implemented. 



The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments is the only national nursing organization focused solely on the intersection of health and the environment. The mission of the Alliance is to promote healthy people and healthy environments by educating and leading the nursing profession, advancing research, incorporating evidence-based practice, and influencing policy.