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Temecula Plant Fined by EPA for Pollution

June 03, 2003|From a Times Staff Writer

A Temecula medical equipment sterilization plant has been fined $50,000 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for allegedly releasing improper amounts of a hazardous air pollutant.

Ethylene oxide is used by Steris to sterilize surgical equipment. For three days in July, the plant was unable to meet federal discharge standards, EPA officials alleged.

"Put simply, ethylene oxide emissions are toxic and contribute to the formation of smog," Jack Broadbent of the EPA's Pacific Southwest Region said in a prepared statement. Short-term exposure to the substance can affect the central nervous system. Long-term exposure can cause damage to the brain and nerves. The EPA has classified it as a probable carcinogen.

Kevin Marsh, spokesman for Steris at its Ohio corporate offices, said the company had reported the problem, that the higher amounts of the pollutant caused no health or environment problems, and that the problem was quickly corrected. He said a negligible 2% above the allowable amount had been released.

EPA officials said Steris neither admitted or denied the allegations but would pay the fine.

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