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Articles by Senior Staff Writer Naveena Sadasivam

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Protesters chant in front of the headquarters of Sterigenics in Oak Brook, Illinois. Sterigenics uses ethylene oxide at a number of its facilities across the country to sterilize items as part of its business.

The chemical compound ethylene oxide is manufactured and used in hundreds of facilities across the United States. Linked to lymphoma, leukemia, and breast cancer, the carcinogen is used to sterilize about half of all medical devices in the country. Over the last few years, as evidence of its toxicity has become more clear, regulators have attempted to step up enforcement against ethylene oxide emitters. Still, penalties for allowing workers — who have some of the highest exposure risks — to breathe dangerous levels of the chemical have been few and far between.

That may be changing. In the Southern California city of Carson, Parter Medical Products uses ethylene oxide in the process of manufacturing single-use petri dishes and vials. Last week, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA, fined the facility more than $800,000 for exposing its employees to dangerous levels of the toxic substance.

Between 2019 and 2023, the agency found that employees were repeatedly exposed to as much as five times the state’s standard for acceptable expo... Read more

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