Ethylene oxide (EtO) at room temperature is a colorless flammable gas with a sweet odor. Commonly used in small doses as a sterilizing agent, the gas can damage DNA to effectively clean materials. Specifically, the medical device industry heavily relies on EtO to sterilize about 20 billion instruments per year.
However, EtO is a human carcinogen, and exposure to the chemical may cause serious health issues. If you were exposed to high amounts of EtO, a tenacious workplace injury attorney could help you file a claim for any damages you have sustained.
The Dangers of Being Exposed to Ethylene Oxide
Medical personnel and individuals working or living near industrial facilities may be exposed to uncontrolled industrial emissions of EtO, which can cause significantly elevated levels of the chemical in their bloodstream. However, the general public can also be exposed through tobacco smoke and the use of other products that have been sterilized with EtO, like cosmetics and medical products.
Primary forms of EtO exposure include inhalation, ingestion, and exposure through the skin. In limited quantities, exposure to EtO can cause respiratory irritation, lung injury, headache, nausea, and other symptoms. However, long-term exposure has proven to increase the risk of cancers of the white blood cells, including Hodgkin Lymphoma, Lymphocytic Leukemia, Myeloma, and breast cancer in women.
How to Avoid Exposure and Future Regulations
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is currently working to limit occupational exposure to ethylene oxide. The current standard limits employee exposure to one part EtO per million parts of the air in an 8-hour time-weighted average. The Environmental Protection Agency is also tackling a similar issue by considering new restrictions on the chemical, especially for instances that it is used as a pesticide.
When handling EtO, it is crucial to wear protective eye gear and clothing and use a respirator in the case of exposure. In more severe situations, government agencies recommend the use of a chemical protective, full-body suit. In everyday life, consumers should be wary of personal care products with ethoxylated ingredients and avoid first and secondhand smoke, if possible.
Contact an Experienced Workplace Injury Attorney Today
Employers have the duty to care for the safety and wellbeing of their employees. If you have been exposed to EtO or other toxic chemicals and have developed an illness as a result, you may be entitled to compensation.
The experienced attorneys at our firm have the proper experience and resources to secure appropriate compensation for individuals who have suffered from exposure in the workplace. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about your options.