Madison - St. Clair Record

Monday, April 6, 2020

Put a moratorium on EtO protests

Our View

By The Madison County Record | Mar 24, 2020


After negotiating with Republicans in Congress and agreeing to the terms of a coronavirus response bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer suddenly announced that the bill they’d agreed to wasn’t good enough, that it needed to be scrapped, and that the negotiation process would have to start all over.

It doesn’t take much of a cynic to conclude that these two Democrat leaders are determined – in the famous words of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel – not to let a crisis go to waste. They’re playing politics as usual, engaging in obstructionism and perpetuating or even exacerbating the threat posed by the virus to achieve some opportunistic purpose – perhaps to make President Trump look bad, or to tank the economy and lessen the likelihood of his reelection.

They’re setting a bad example for the American people and encouraging other unreasonable actors to engage in similarly reckless stunts at the expense of the general welfare.

Public protests that have now erupted in response to discussions about reopening the Sterigenics plaint in Cobb County, Georgia are a good example of this megalomaniacal tunnel vision. Last year, pressure from an affiliated "Stop Sterigenics" group based in the suburbs of Chicago - where the anti-EtO campaign began - eventually resulted in the closure of Sterigenics’ Willowbrook, Illinois plant at the hands of the administration of Gov. JB Pritzker.

When it was still operating, Sterigenics sanitized the gowns, masks, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) that are needed to protect medical professionals, et al. from infection by the virus and which are now in short supply. The sterilization process requires the use of ethylene oxide (EtO), which the federal Environmental Protection Agency has labeled carcinogenic, a classification disputed by other knowledgeable persons and agencies.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and makers of medical equipment have repeatedly warned that the shutdown of sterilization plants such as Sterigenics would lead to complications in the U.S. healthcare system, and so they have. Nearly half of all medical devices in the U.S., including PPE, are sterilized using EtO, for which there is currently no viable alternative.

Now is not the time to agitate over an arguably imaginary problem: the alleged carcinogenicity of EtO. Now is the time to do whatever is necessary to stifle this virus.

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