Yesterday, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) reported that they have finalized an agreement with Viant Medical Inc. to end the use of ethylene oxide to sterilize medical equipment at the company's facility in Grand Rapids.

Under the agreement, Viant Medical must stop using ethylene oxide by Dec. 31, conduct monthly air sampling through February, and pay a penalty of $110,000 to the State of Michigan

Ethylene oxide is a man-made, flammable, colorless gas. It is mostly used to make other chemicals and for sterilizing medical equipment.

Breathing in low amounts of ethylene oxide over time may increase the risk of developing certain cancers including blood cancers such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma, myeloma, lymphocytic leukemia and breast cancer.

Breathing in high amounts of ethylene oxide, most often in a workplace setting, can cause irritation of the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs, as well as harm the brain and nervous system. If pregnant, it can lead to a miscarriage.

EGLE has been investigating emissions at Viant's facility at Watson Street SW in Grand Rapids over the past year and issued several violations to the company for inadequate capture and control of ethylene oxide. Testing found chemical emissions higher than state and federal health protective levels.

The finalized consent order, reported by EGLE yesterday, was signed Nov. 26.

Ethylene oxide is one of 187 different "toxic air pollutants" regulated by EPA.

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