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Fronteras: A chemical vital to sterilizing medical equipment may be endangering Laredo residents

It’s ironic that a process meant to sterilize medical equipment to keep us safe from infection can cause us harm.

That’s the instance with ethylene oxide. EtO is the only effective sterilization method for some medical equipment. But ethylene oxide is a known carcinogen.

Midwest Sterilization Corporation has operated in the border city of Laredo since 2005. It uses ethylene oxide to sterilize 40 percent of the nation’s surgical procedure trays.

A recent report by ProPublica and the Texas Tribune revealed that Midwest Sterilization is one of the nation’s top emitters of ethylene oxide.

The city of Laredo is considered one of the top 20 locations in the U.S. with the highest levels of excess cancer risk.

How is this being received by the residents of Laredo?

Map by: Martin Castro
EPA National Air Toxics Assessment (2014); retrieved from epa.gov website: www.epa.gov/ejscreen/download-ejscreen-data; accessed on 11/10/2021.

On this episode we talk to members of the Laredo Clean Air Coalition, a group of parents, elected officials, nonprofits, and community members formed to raise awareness of the elevated cancer risks of ethylene oxide.

Tricia Cortez, executive director of the Rio Grande International Study Center, co-founder of the Laredo Clean Air Coalition.
Sheila Serna, Climate Science and Policy Director with the Rio Grande International Study Center, former TCEQ investigator.
Vanessa Perez, Laredo councilwoman for District 7, co-founder of the Laredo Clean Air Coalition.
Ricardo Sandoval, owner of Alterri Distribution Center & Transport, a business located across the street from Midwest Sterilization.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and Midwest Sterilization Corp. sent TPR the following statements on ethylene oxide emissions. Read them here:

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1