Elevated levels of carcinogen found in neighbors of Medline sterilization plant

Residents who live close to a Medline Industries sterilization plant in Waukegan, Ill., have higher levels of a cancer-causing chemical in their blood, according to a University of Illinois at Chicago report cited by the Daily Herald

Researchers at UIC tested 93 residents living near Medline's Waukegan plant and reportedly found levels of ethylene oxide 1.5 times higher than the average person. Ethylene oxide is used by Medline to sterilize medical equipment. 

The report comes as concerns over ethylene oxide causing cancer have prompted several medical device sterilization plant closures, causing the FDA to warn of a critical medical device shortage. 

Susan Buchanan, a clinical associate professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at UIC, told the Daily Herald that the research should be taken as pilot surveillance data only and that further research would be needed to confirm the results. 

In a statement sent to Becker's Hospital Review, Medline said the Lake County Health Department's recent readings from its air monitors near the Waukegan facility showed the ethylene oxide levels near the facility were lower than any other EPA-tested area in Illinois. 

"Medline points to this data as proof that we continue to be a safe operator, and it calls into further question the relevance and validity of the partial pilot project studying the hemoglobin adduct levels of people who live and work around Medline," said Medline spokesperson Jesse Greenberg. 

He added that the company's latest emission controls enhancements abate 99.9 percent of all the ethylene oxide used in the facility. 

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