McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday evening is holding a public meeting in Laredo, Texas, to discuss concerns over harmful cancer-causing emissions linked to a medical equipment sterilization facility north of the border.

The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Texas A&M International University’s Fine and Performing Arts Center, according to the Clean Air Laredo Coalition.

The grassroots organization formed in 2021 after learning of high numbers of cancers associated with residents and workers exposed to ethylene oxide (EtO) emissions from a medical equipment sterilization facility run by Midwest Sterilization Corporation.

A March 2020 report from the EPA’s Inspector General listed the Laredo facility as among the “25 High-Priority Ethylene Oxide-Emitting Facilities of Health Risks” in the entire United States.

(Graphic by Clean Air Laredo Coalition in conjunction with the Rio Grande International Study Center and City of Laredo District 7.)

Ethylene oxide, or EtO, is a mutagenic DNA-damaging gas that has been associated with various cancers, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma and leukemia.

EtO is one of the most severe air toxins regulated by the EPA. It is 60 times more toxic to children, and 30 times more toxic to adults than previously estimated, according to the federal agency. 

The “EPA plans to engage with communities facing the highest risk to hear about their concerns and answer their questions as we share details about this risk assessment, community risk, and efforts to reduce this risk,” the agency has posted on its website.

The EPA said EtO emissions from the Laredo facility, along with other sterilization facilities on their list “are contributing to elevated cancer risk at or above 100 additional cancer cases per million people exposed (or 1 additional cancer case per 10,000 people exposed.”

The Rio Grande is seen from the banks of Laredo, Texas, overlooking Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

“The vast majority of people and organizations, like us, were not aware what this company was and what they were emitting and how they ranked in the U.S., as far as emissions and EPA rules,” Tricia Cortez, executive director of the nonprofit Rio Grande International Study Center previously told Border Report.

“The Laredo facility is listed among the top 25 priority facilities and they haven’t done outreach here,” she said.

Laredo is in the process of trying to build a binational river park with its sister city Nuevo, Laredo, for more ecological conservation.

More information on the meeting can be found on the website of the nonprofit Rio Grande International Study Center.

The event also is being live-streamed and registration can be found here.