Most of the reference exposure studies observed the morbidity/mortality of individuals working in sterilization plants with direct, chronic exposure to high concentrations of ethylene oxide gas prior to changes in allowable environmental levels in 1985, and also formed the basis for the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) findings of cancer causation
Meta-analyses of more recent observational cohort studies performed in the 2000s and 2010s of sterilization workers directly exposed to ethylene oxide gas in the workplace do not support the association between ethylene oxide exposure and increased risk of lymphohematopoietic or breast cancers
The elimination half-life of ethylene oxide in humans is approximately 42 minutes – thus almost 90% of any ethylene oxide in a single exposure would be eliminated from the body in two hours
In order to gain FDA approval, testing swabs need to have demonstrated to meet tolerable contact limits of ethylene oxide residuals – experts claim that once packaged for a period of time and aerated prior to use, it is unlikely to contain any ethylene oxide residuals; corroborated by a study assessing the residuals on DNA swabs, finding no detectable levels of ethylene oxide on swabs 3 weeks after sterilization treatment
Badea, A; Groot, G; Hernandez-Ronquillo, L; Fox, L; Mueller, M. What are the risks associated with repeated exposure to Ethylene Oxide from ongoing use of the Abbott Panbio AG COVID-19 Nasal swabs? 2021 Nov 30. Document no.: EOC211126 RR. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2021. 14 p. (CEST rapid review report).