COVINGTON, Ga. (CBS46) – The City of Covington asked the Becton Dickinson sterilization facility to temporarily cease operations while the city works to put in place more emissions control equipment.
The city said it contracted with a third-party company called Montrose Air Quality Services to test the air over the area over a week-long period. The testing was focused on the chemical Ethylene Oxide.
Ethylene oxide is a clear, odorless gas the Environmental Protection Agency list as a carcinogen. The EPA said exposure to ethylene oxide increases the risk of lymphoid cancer and, for females, breast cancer.
“Given the results of our independent air test, the Covington City Council and I have no choice but to ask BD to do the right thing for their employees and neighbors and temporarily cease operations at their Covington sterilization facility until additional safeguards are in place and we have data verifying the efficiency of those safeguards,” said Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston.
BD was under scrutiny for an 8-day leak of ethylene oxide earlier this year. That leak was caused by a valve that wasn’t closed. The Sterigenics company in Smyrna has also made news with ethylene oxide emissions and has been under intense public pressure over the emissions.
The City of Covington said the full report from Montrose will be released once it’s finalized.
Becton Dickinson officials did not immediately respond to the mayor’s request to suspend operations. Instead, they released a statement that essentially downplayed the potential risks.
The statement reads in part, “As expected, the results vary widely, which is generally consistent with ethylene oxide (EtO) monitoring. EtO in the air can come from many sources, including humans, and measurements are in very small amounts (micrograms of EtO per cubic meter of air), so there can be a high degree of variability among measurements with no clear explanation for it.”