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DNREC, EPA, Croda, discuss cancer rates in Route 9 corridor

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Croda, Inc.
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DNREC and the EPA continue working with Croda to reduce ethylene oxide emissions at the company’s New Castle area facility.

Concerns about emissions from the facility have been a focus since massive amounts of the explosive and carcinogenic chemical leaked in 2018, causing a temporary shutdown of the Delaware Memorial Bridge.

DNREC is updating area residents about efforts to monitor them and assess their risk to health and safety.

Atlas Point site director Chris Barnett says gas leak levels are constantly monitored, and action is taken when it is above the EPA threshold.

“We’re going to decide to act at a smaller limit, and we can prevent the emissions from becoming greater. So we’re already lowering those limits. We think that will help us, and we’re exploring new technology. So as time goes on, you get the next generation type of leak proof equipment, we’re looking into that, understanding what we can buy to control the emissions even further.”

Croda manufactures surfactants used in cosmetics, lotions, soaps, cleaners and detergents, and are known to cause cancer in cases of overexposure.

Barnett says recent improvements have reduced emissions by almost 70 percent since 2016.

In Wednesday’s meeting with DNREC, the EPA, and Croda, EPA scientist Carol Ann Gross-Davis said exposure to EtO’s mostly comes from inhalation.

“It’s unlikely that ethylene oxide is going to remain in food, and it’s not going to necessarily dissolve in water so you don’t have to worry about contact outside of your home. And there's also limited information on ethylene oxide in hazardous waste sites or in soil.”

The Department of Health and Social Services reports that between 2013-2017, Delaware’s lung cancer incidence rate was 64.7 per 100,000 people, compared to 52.6 nationwide. And recent data shows a significant amount of cases are coming from the Route 9 corridor.

A Department of Health and Social Services representative notes that moving forward, it will begin producing a Route-9 specific cancer data brief.

Rachel Sawicki is Delaware Public Media's New Castle County Reporter. They are non-binary and use they/them pronouns.