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Fulton to test for ethylene oxide in air near Fulton Industrial

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

Fulton County is going to set up 10 sites to collect air samples near a Fulton Industrial medical sterilization facility that emits ethylene oxide, a cancer-causing gas.

The test sites will be within five miles of Sterilization Services of Georgia, a facility near the intersection of Boat Rock Road and Fulton Industrial Boulevard, in an unincorporated part of west Fulton County.

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

The testing will start in at most, about three weeks, once contractor GHD Services and a panel of consultants pick the sites, said Fulton County Deputy Chief Operating Officer Dr. Pamela Roshell. Air samples will be collected for two weeks.

She was speaking just after the Fulton County Commission unanimously approved the $69,300 contract on Wednesday.

Cobb County plus the cities of Atlanta and Smyrna are already paying for air testing, mainly to understand what’s going on around a similar plant in Smyrna owned by the company Sterigenics. The Steriginics plant uses about five times as much ethylene oxide as the Fulton Industrial plant.

Fulton doesn’t have the power to do much of anything if it finds high levels of ethylene oxide — it’s the state and federal government that enforce clean air laws. But the county has an interest is in knowing if there’s anything going on that’s harmful to residents’ health.

Atlanta, Cobb and Smyrna’s testing tab has come to $130,000 altogether. They’re all using the same contractor. The city of Atlanta’s share of that came to $54,000.

Fulton too will use the same contractor and cooperate with those neighboring jurisdictions.

Separately, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division is testing the air in Smyrna, and in an area of Covington where there’s also a medical sterilization plant.

The state also says that Sterilization Services of Georgia has agreed to install some extra pollution control measures at its Fulton Industrial plant. The company had expressed some interest in expanding its plant, but that can’t go forward at this time, said a state spokesman.

The attention comes after an uproar around the Smyrna plant that came after 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.

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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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