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Ethylene oxide facility near Fulton Industrial to install some new pollution controls

An open metal stent in an open hand About half of all sterile medical devices in the U.S. are sterilized with EtO, according to the FDA. That includes things like stents. Credit: 1lenore/Creative Commons

By Maggie Lee

New pollution controls are coming to a facility at the west edge of Fulton County that emits the carcinogenic gas ethylene oxide.

That’s according to a letter dated Friday from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to Sterilization Services of Georgia.

An open metal stent in an open hand

About half of all sterile medical devices in the U.S. are sterilized with EtO, according to the FDA. That includes things like stents. Credit: 1lenore/CC BY 2.0

“…[T]he Division has been requesting voluntary controls at existing ethylene oxide sterilization facilities and has identified the control of emissions from the back vents of the sterilization chambers as a common practice that Sterilization Services of Georgia does not currently utilize,” reads the letter in part.

The company has agreed to install such vents, according to the EPD, and is to submit paperwork to include a schedule of construction by Sept. 27.

The EPD will model the impact of the facility’s emissions on nearby residences using information in that paperwork and other parameters.

The attention comes after an uproar around a plant in Smyrna owned by the company Sterigenics. Sterigenics, like SSG, uses ethylene oxide to sterilize medical equipment. The backlash in Smyrna has swelled since a July report by Georgia Health News and Web MD pointed out that the feds have revised their opinions on what’s called EtO. It’s been reclassified as a definite cause of cancer — but both state and federal environmental officials were quiet about the new finding.

People around the Smyrna plant and another in Covington didn’t realize that their neighborhoods show up as areas of elevated cancer risk, per a federal air toxics map.

The SSG plant is near the intersection of Boat Rock Road and Fulton Industrial Boulevard in unincorporated Fulton County. It does not show up as a place with elevated cancer risk.

The SSG facility is much smaller than Sterigenics in Smyrna. SSG used about 45 tons of the toxic gas last year, to Sterigenics’ roughly 212 tons.

According to the EPD, SSG reports emitting about 600 pounds of ethylene oxide per year.

Earlier this year, SSG had expressed some interest in expanding, according to the EPD. But a division spokesman said that the project to increase capacity cannot proceed at this time.

Documents:

EPD letter to Sterilization Services_091319

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Maggie Lee

Maggie Lee is a freelance reporter who's been covering Georgia and metro Atlanta government and politics since 2008.

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