Health, News

Smyrna, Covington Residents Pressure Officials On Ethylene Oxide

Gov. Brian Kemp’s office says it is investigating ethylene oxide, which has become a top concern for hundreds of thousands of people who live near Smyrna and Covington. The toxin, linked to cancer, is concentrated around those areas, each home to medical device sterilization plants.
Gov. Brian Kemp’s office says it is investigating ethylene oxide, which has become a top concern for hundreds of thousands of people who live near Smyrna and Covington. The toxin, linked to cancer, is concentrated around those areas, each home to medical device sterilization plants.
Credit Dustin Chambers / For WABE

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s office says it’s opening an investigation into ethylene oxide, a toxin linked to cancer. The chemical is concentrated around two metro Atlanta cities, each home to medical device sterilization plants.

The companies use ethylene oxide to kill harmful bacteria.

Thursday’s announcement comes weeks after a Georgia Health News and WebMD joint investigation uncovered documents showing ethylene oxide is likely responsible for higher rates of cancer in the population surrounding the facilities.

Hundreds turned out Tuesday in Smyrna for a meeting with elected officials and Sterigenics executives. Sterigenics  uses ethylene oxide to sterilize devices used during medical procedures. Part of the process involves releasing the wasted chemical into the air as exhaust.

A similar meeting is scheduled for Monday evening in Covington.

To better understand the nuances of the story, WABE’s Jim Burress sat down with Brenda Goodman, senior writer for WebMD, and Georgia Health News editor Andy Miller.

They began the conversation with Miller explaining why ethylene oxide has now become a top concern for hundreds of thousands of people who live near Smyrna and Covington.