EPA: Facilities releasing ‘cancer causing chemicals'

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In Covington and Smyrna, many are wondering what’s in the air and if it is safe. The Environmental Protection Agency has acknowledged two industrial plants in those cities are emitting a gas which in large enough doses can cause cancer.

Wednesday night, it was an overflow crowd at an old church near the Sterigenics plant in Smyrna on Olympic Industrial Drive SE.

“We need some answers, we need answers from the state from the feds,” Tony Adams, the organizer told the crowd.

According to the EPA, the Smyrna plant emits a gas known as Ethylene Oxide, EtO, which, in high enough doses, can cause cancer.

That’s of grave concern to Joan Wenders who got breast cancer after moving from the area.

“In January of 2018, I was diagnosed with stage 3,” said Wenders.

“Do you think it’s connected to any of this?” asked FOX 5’s George Franco.

“I don’t know but I know it can’t have helped,” said Wenders.

EtO is a chemical used in the sterilization of medical supplies at Sterigenics. The EPA told FOX 5 News EtO was classified as cancer-causing in 2016.

Critics, like town hall organizer Tony Adams told FOX 5 News the information was available to the public but was not easily found.

“Someone would have to tell you to go look for it, I didn’t even know what EtO was,” said Adams.

The EPA said the other metro Atlanta plant emitting EtO is the Becton Dixon Plant in Covington.

Trey Sanders, the spokesman for Covington, said the city is working with the state, feds and the plant to determine the extent of dangers to the community.

“We are still trying to learn exactly what the threat is, how great of a threat is and go from there,” said Sanders.

The EPA said the Covington and Smyrna plants are emitting acceptable levels. A statement sent to FOX 5 News read in part, “Risk from EtO concentrations in residential areas does not exceed 100-in-1 million, which EPA uses as a general guide for determining maximum acceptable lifetime cancer risk.”

Sterigenics sent a statement to FOX 5 which said in the last five years it has taken voluntary measures to reduce EtO emissions by 90 percent at the Smyrna plant.

Also at the town hall were representatives from Willowbrook Illinois involved in a community fight against EtO from a Sterigenics plant there.

“Mobilize early, get your legislators and politicians on board, make your voices heard and do not back down no matter what,” said community activist Margie Donnell.

Numerous people at the Smyrna meeting told FOX 5 they are planning on holding meetings with city and county leaders soon.

The spokesman for the city of Covington said city leaders plan to hold a meeting on the matter probably next week.