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Initial Tests Around Smyrna Medical Sterilization Plant Provide ‘Baseline’

Members of Smyrna's Air Quality Oversight Committee met Monday to hear results from the first independent air quality tests taken around a medical sterilization plant in Cobb County.
Members of Smyrna's Air Quality Oversight Committee met Monday to hear results from the first independent air quality tests taken around a medical sterilization plant in Cobb County.
Credit Emil Moffatt / WABE
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A three-day, independent sampling of air quality around a medical sterilization plant in Cobb County did not show elevated levels of ethylene oxide, a gas that has been linked to an increased cancer risk.

The testing firm, GHD found that measurable levels of ethylene oxide were only identified in 20 percent of the samples collected and that those measurements were not above normal.

But the tests are being described as a “baseline” measurement as the Sterigenics plant was  closed for maintenance several days before the samples were collected.

District 4 Cobb County Commissioner Lisa Cupid is part of the air quality oversight committee that met Monday.

“There’s nothing abnormal about the level of emissions, but I think that was countered with, we still need to wait and see what happens over a longer term,” said Cupid.

After the EPA found that the gas had led increased cancer risk in the area, Cobb County along with Smryna and Atlanta paid to have the independent testing done.

The first set of samples was collected in early September.

“I think the big thing is that it’s a small sample, it’s snapshot, so that’s an important thing for people to remember,” said District 2 Cobb County Commissioner Bob Ott.

“I also think that what people can take away is that there is not this huge amount of the gas lingering in the air,” said Ott. “Because everything we heard in the community meetings was the long term exposure is really what matters. So if we don’t have these high concentrations then that’s a positive.”

Tony Adams who lives less than a mile from the plant, says three days of testing can’t tell the whole story.

“We’re never going to know how much they polluted our community for the 20-plus years and certainly for the last four or five. However, with that being said, we know have a baseline to compare,” said Adams.

Nine more days of independent testing are scheduled to take place in October when the Sterigenics plant re-opens.