Ethylene Oxide in Virginia

Published Feb 7, 2023

A map of ethylene oxide-emitting facilities in Richmond, Virginia.

Virginia has four commercial sterilizers, two in metropolitan Richmond and two in Virginia Beach. Both areas are sterilizer hotspots. Nearly 726,000 Virginians (more than 8 percent of the state population) live within five miles of at least one of these facilities (US Census Bureau 2020).

In Richmond, Sterilization Services of Virginia in Henrico and Central Virginia Health Network/Bon Secours Mercy Health are less than 10 miles apart (Figure 11). EtO emissions from the Sterilization Services facility, which sterilizes medical equipment, contribute to elevated cancer risks, with a maximum excess cancer risk level of 1,000 additional cases per 1 million people (EPA 2022o). Indeed, the air toxics cancer risk is 90 cases per 1 million in the census tract where the facility is located; EtO emissions contribute 70 percent of the overall risk (AirToxScreen 2022). In 2021, the facility reported 5,025 pounds of EtO emissions.

Approximately 109,000 people and nearly 100 schools and childcare centers are within five miles of the Sterilization Services facility. People of color make up three-quarters of the population within five miles—25 percent greater than the county overall. The proportion of people with low income is also 10 percent greater around the facility compared with the county average.

The Virginia Beach sterilizers are roughly eight miles apart; Lifenet Health owns both (see here and here). Within the last five years, the EPA has brought a formal enforcement action against one of these facilities for failing to comply with the Clean Air Act. Lifenet Health paid more than $64,000 in penalties.