Author Richard Weaver was certainly correct when he asserted that “ideas have consequences” in his 1948 book by the same name. It’s also true that misinformation can have consequences — often seriously dangerous ones. Consider the effect of one faulty government study, which unleashed a chain of events that undermined medical supplies during the early part of the COVID-19 crisis and continues to be a problem.
Back in 2016, an Environmental Protection Agency program known as the Integrated Risk Information System released a report that made absurd claims about the risk of ethylene oxide. Ethylene oxide is a gas that is naturally produced in the environment by plants and via combustion and is a byproduct of human metabolism. It’s also essential to the sterilization of more than half of all U.S. medical supplies — masks, syringes, ventilators and more — and there are no good substitutes.
The program’s assessment deemed that the chemical was carcinogenic at absurdly low levels, saying human exposures should be kept below 0.1 parts per trillion. Supposedly, any exposures above that level could increase cancer risks.
It’s hard to grasp a number that tiny, but the American Chemistry Council adds some perspective in a short fact sheet. It notes that a concentration of 0.1 parts per trillion is equivalent to one drop of ethylene oxide mixed in the amount of water found within 200 Olympic-size swimming pools.
The human body is well equipped to handle such minute exposures. As noted on the EPA website, the human body releases ethylene oxide it produces or inhales “fairly quickly,” with levels falling by “50% every 42 minutes.”
In fact, the levels that naturally occur in the human body are 19,000 times higher than the IRIS figure, according to a 2019 American Chemistry Council analysis petitioning EPA to revise the assessment.
“Thus, if the (ethylene oxide) IRIS assessment is to be believed, normal human metabolism and/or breathing ambient air is sufficient to cause cancer,” the petition notes.
The figure is also completely out of bounds compared to government safety standards around the world. As toxicologist Gail Charnley points out, it is more than “5 million times more stringent than the scientific judgments underlying all other regulatory limits on ethylene oxide in the United States and worldwide.”
Read the full article at The Telegraph.