Public meeting about concerns over airborne carcinogen ethylene oxide set for Tuesday at Campbell Middle school

Sterigenics sign in article about lawsuit Sterigenics, BD BardSterigenics (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

Cobb County Communication Director Ross Cavitt announced a public meeting over concerns about a Smyrna-area plant that emits the airborne carcinogen ethylene oxide. The meeting will be Tuesday July 30 at 7 p.m. at the Campbell Middle School auditorium, 3295 Atlanta Road SE
Smyrna, GA 30080.

The plant came to public notice after an article jointly published by Georgia Health News and WebMD reported that three census tracts, two in the Smyrna area and one in Covington had unacceptable levels of cancer risk by EPA standards, due to elevated amounts of ethylene oxide in the air.

The meeting will include representatives of Sterigenics (the company whose plant is under scrutiny) and public officials.

The Sterigenics plant is located in a heavy industrial area near the intersection of South Cobb Drive and Plant Atkinson Road.

Cobb County District 2 Commissioner Bob Ott will lead the county’s contingent in the meeting.

Statements on ethylene oxide

Sterigenics issued the following statement about their compliance, and their plans to install equipment to reduce the amount of ethyline oxide their plant emits:

July 23, 2019

The Sterigenics Atlanta facility safely operates in compliance with permits and regulations established by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). As part of our commitment to ongoing improvement, we have consistently taken voluntary steps to reduce emissions of ethylene oxide (EO) from the facility resulting in a 90% reduction in EO emissions over the past five years. In addition, we are working with the Georgia EPD regarding additional voluntary enhancements that are consistent with changes being undertaken in other Sterigenics facilities and which will further reduce EO emissions from the facility to negligible levels. We anticipate completing the enhancements over 12 to 24 weeks following receipt of the necessary permits.EO is a vital resource in the sterilization of medical products and devices. Our Atlanta facility sterilizes many products including surgical kits, radiological syringes, catheters, hospital gowns and IV administration sets which are essential in today’s hospitals. The same properties that make EO such an important resource for sterilization also require that it is controlled carefully. We take our responsibility for the safe handling and control of EO veryseriously which is precisely why we are working with the Georgia EPD to implement additional voluntary improvements. Sterigenics is committed to the safety of the communities in which we operate, our employees and the patients we serve. We follow rigorous safety protocols at our Atlanta facility and at all of our facilities and are committed to continuously improving our operations in the ongoing interest of public safety.

Georgia State Senator Jen Jordan wrote the following:

As I indicated yesterday, disturbing reporting by Georgia Health News and WebMD revealed that Georgia’s Environmental Protected Division (“EPD”) has kept the public in the dark about an elevated cancer risk caused by the emission of ethylene oxide in the metro-Atlanta area.

This morning, with Rep. Erick Allen, I spoke with the President of Sterigenics and he has represented to me that the company will be submitting an application to Georgia EPD within 7 to 14 days that will seek EPD’s approval for Sterigenics to install new emissions reducing technology in its Cobb County plant that the company believes will significantly reduce emissions and bring down any emissions to an acceptable level.

If its application is approved by EDP, Sterigenics believes that the installation of the new emissions reducing technology would then take approximately 12 weeks to complete. The company has said that it would put out a formal statement by the end of the day. Rep. Allen and I I will post the statement once we have it in hand.

To be clear, these initial overtures are welcome, but they are just the beginning and will not cut off my office’s efforts to ensure that the people that live in my district are not being harmed. I know that there is a lot of troubling information out there, but just know that we are working to get answers and solutions.

Ott, who has been following developments since the news first broke, and who will represent the county at the public meeting, said in the news release, “The county understands the concerns of people who live in the area. Both my assistant and others with the county have had multiple conversations with Georgia EPD officials since the article came out and want to make sure the state is doing everything it can to monitor emissions from the plant.”