LAKEWOOD, Colo. -- State health officials have ordered canisters to conduct air tests near the Terumo BCT plant in Lakewood after the EPA released its latest National Air Toxics Assessment Update, which found emissions that could potentially lead to a higher cancer risk.
The update identifies pollutants in need of further assessment, among them ethylene oxide, a chemical used to sterilize medical equipment.
The new assessment identified 26 facilities in the U.S. where emissions of ethylene oxide may pose an "elevated potential cancer risk."
The Terumo BCT plant, at 10810 W. Collins Avenue, is on that list.
"We understand this news may worry people in the area," said Dr. Larry Wolk, chief medical officer and executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. "We are already working with Terumo BCT officials about methods to further reduce any release of ethylene oxide at its Lakewood facility."
Dr. Wolk notes that the EPA computer modeled an estimated excess cancer risk of 500 in a million for lifetime exposure.
He also noted that an assessment by the health department's cancer registry shows that cancer in the area "is not elevated."
The health department will conduct air sampling to better determine the potential risk to residents in the area.
Terumo BCT manufactures medical equipment and supplies used to treat sick patients. The company uses ethylene oxide to sterilize the equipment, including bags used for blood.
"We can't afford to have anything happen to our sick patients," said Tom Gulland, director of operations for Terumo BCT. "The gas reacts to any kind of bacteria or other contamination and kills them."
Gulland told Denver7 that ethylene oxide is a controlled substance and that Terumo is currently only emitting 30 percent of what it is permitted to.
The health department said Terumo is permitted to emit 5 tons per year, but is only emitting 1.3 tons per year.
The company says it is working to further reduce emissions.