Ethylene Oxide Emissions Health Risks You Should Know

Ethylene oxide (EtO) is a tremendously dangerous byproduct of many refining processes. If you own, manage, or work within a refinery, there are certain ethylene oxide emissions health risks you should know to ensure a safe and productive working environment. Read on to learn more about the short – and long-term effects of EtO exposure and the tools required to combat these health hazards.

Short-Term Exposure

Brief exposure to EtO emissions often leads to physical symptoms such as irritation, impacting the body’s eyes, nose, skin, and potentially throat. Excessive inhalation may lead to internal complications, including respiratory irritation, lung damage, general nausea, shortened breath, and skin discoloration (cyanosis). Fortunately, many of these symptoms are not chronic issues and are treatable through medical intervention and by eliminating the source of EtO exposure. Aside from the potential for internal bodily harm, EtO emissions are incredibly flammable and reactive, posing another serious hazard to exposed individuals.

Long-Term Health Complications

Unfortunately, chronic exposure to EtO emissions can produce nasty, long-term health complications. First and foremost, EtO is a known carcinogen with mutagenic tendencies – repeat EtO inhalation can progress into various forms of cancer. Furthermore, many experts believe EtO emissions can negatively affect the body’s reproductive organs, nervous system, and immune response. All three of these chronic afflictions can dramatically decrease your overall quality of life. Because of the neurotoxicity of EtO emissions, refineries are legally and morally obligated to implement proper systems and procedures to protect individuals and surrounding communities.

Combating EtO Emissions

Despite the potential for short and long-term health complications, EtO emissions exposure is actually quite manageable. Thanks in part to innovative technologies and stricter EPA regulations, most US refineries implement effective leak detection and repair (LDAR) programs with high-tech software elements and ideal record-keeping best practices. LDAR systems, comprised of monitoring and problem-solving elements, ensure refineries are efficient, productive, and successful. They also control emissions leaks and prevent toxins (such as EtO) from impacting employees, surrounding communities, or nearby environments.

Everyone from energy executives to LDAR technicians should know the health risks of ethylene oxide emissions. Ensure your refinery employs suitable LDAR systems and procedures to protect yourself and others effectively.

By Dianne Pajo

Dianne Pajo is a writer based out of the Chicagoland area with a passion for music, combat sports, and animals. She enjoys competing in amateur boxing and kickboxing, but in her other leisure time, you can find her performing music around the city. She is also a dog mom of 2.