SGS Galson has responded to the EPA identifying ethylene oxide (EtO) as a potential concern with a new analytical procedure that reports as low as 0.40 ppbv in ambient air.


EPA is addressing ambient ethylene oxide based on the results of the latest National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA), released on August 22, 2018, which identified the chemical as a potential concern in several areas across the country. NATA is the agency’s nationwide air toxics screening tool, designed to help EPA and state, local and tribal air agencies identify areas, pollutants or types of sources for further examination.

Ethylene oxide is a flammable, colorless gas used to make other chemicals that are used in making a range of products, including antifreeze, textiles, plastics, detergents and adhesives. Ethylene oxide also is used to sterilize equipment and plastic devices that cannot be sterilized by steam, such as medical equipment.

EPA classified ethylene oxide as a human carcinogen in December 2016. Studies of workers show that their exposures to ethylene oxide are associated with an increased risk of cancers of the white blood cells (the infection-fighting cells of the immune system). Studies also showed an increased risk of breast cancer in females.

In response to public concerns, the EPA performed sampling in May 2018 in a Chicago suburb adjacent to a sterilization facility and found ambient EtO levels in some cases to be significantly above what it considers to be a safe level (0.20 ppbv). At least one source estimated that the elevated ambient levels raised the local cancer risk to more than six cases per 1,000 people.

SGS Galson’s Solution

Clients asked SGS Galson to develop a procedure to analyze EtO samples using evacuated canisters at the extremely low levels required for ambient air analysis. In response, the analysis was validated by the company using 450 ml, 1 liter, and 6-liter samplers. The analysis requires GCMS analysis by EPA TO-15 in SIM mode for ethylene oxide.  

The limits of quantitation for the canisters are 0.04 parts per billion from evacuated 6L canisters or 0.20 ppb LOQ from evacuated minicans. Sampling times range from 15 minutes to seven days, depending on the canister used. The 450ml canisters can also be used for personal sampling.

The EPA considers the safe level of EtO to be 0.20 ppbv or lower and SGS Galson has responded:

SGS Galson EtO Limits of Quantification:

6L Summa Canister         0.04 ppbv

Minican                             0.20 ppbv

Bill Walsh, CIH, SGS Galson, Business Development Manager, said, “No doubt, our clients will receive inquiries about ethylene oxide analysis and will be ready to respond quickly and effectively by familiarizing themselves with our procedure.” Walsh has written a blog with details on the EPA’s findings and a full description of SGS Galson procedure here

SGS Galson summa cans/minicans are FREE unless returned unused. If returned unused, there’s a $25/can cleaning fee.

To place your summa can/minican order, contact SGS Galson Client Services at 888-432-5227 or use our IHLive Chat at

« Previous Article Next Article »