The MPCA is offering grants and loans to businesses looking to reduce their emissions of the chemical ethylene oxide (EtO). Many companies use it to sterilize food products and medical equipment, but it's also found in household products, such as shampoo and bubble bath. Recent scientific review has found the chemical appears to be more harmful than previously thought. Eligible companies could receive grants up to $25,000 to either reduce emissions of EtO or eliminate it altogether.
EtO is a gas used in making a range of products such as antifreeze, textiles, plastics, detergents, and adhesives. It can be used to sterilize equipment, plastic devices, and even herbs and spices that can't withstand the heat of steam sterilization. And it shows up as a byproduct or derivative in some manufactured goods.
The U.S. EPA classifies EtO as a known carcinogen, and federal standards restrict emissions from some sources. But recent research has shown its potential health impacts are greater than previously thought. EPA conducted a nationwide review of EtO emissions and identified several areas of the country where facilities using EtO are of potential concern. Among other actions and investigations, EPA is reviewing the existing regulations on EtO.
Fortunately, Minnesota is not a significant emitter of EtO when compared to other states. According to the most recent emissions data reported to the MPCA, the state has 22 permitted facilities whose EtO emissions are controlled by permit, along with numerous other smaller facilities that don’t have permits. But even though we’re a low-emitting state, we can do more to reduce emissions from all sources.
One way to do that is to encourage users to switch to alternatives where possible. That’s the aim of the grant program. Applications are accepted through Aug. 28. Read about the grants.
In addition to the grant funding, zero-percent loans are available for the same goals. Read about the loan program here.
MPCA plans to promote public engagement if EPA proposes any rule changes as part of its review. Look for more information on that process soon.