Year of Publication



Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Degree Name

Master of Public Administration

Committee Chair

Dr. Ron Zimmer

Executive Summary

Toxic chemicals are dangerous when exposed directly to humans but are often vital for the production of goods and services. Ethylene Oxide is a carcinogenic gas used as a commercial sterilizer and emitted during the manufacturing process of common household goods. The term fence-line communities describes the residents living adjacent to facilities emitting toxic chemicals into the air. Several predominately minority, low-income fence-line communities in Southern Louisiana are exposed to higher than average levels of Ethylene Oxide from nearby manufacturing facilities. This raises environmental justice and overall public health concerns in the area. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is charged with protecting the environment and human health within the United States. Under the Clean Air Act, the agency must establish regulations for toxic air pollutants used in manufacturing. Regulations surrounding EtO are changing due to a recent study indicating the chemical has a higher associated cancer risk than previously thought. Industrial emitters believe the new cancer risk estimate is overly conservative and community members fear the regulation is not conservative enough. Ethylene Oxide exposure and associated cancer risk is an ongoing problem for Southern Louisiana communities and current regulatory measures have not brought emission levels to what the EPA deems sufficient for the protection of public health. The following analysis will evaluate policy alternatives for Ethylene Oxide regulation using effectiveness, political feasibility, and technical feasibility as measurement criteria. Alternatives will then be evaluated on these criteria and a policy recommendation made. The recommendation could be used to guide the future direction of Ethylene Oxide regulation. Before developing potential policy alternatives, a brief explanation of Ethylene Oxide and its usage, associated cancer risk, environmental justice concerns, and status of the policy will be outlined.