After the discovery of toxic gas being emitted from a Sterigenics medical sterilization plant in Smyrna, where possible unhealthy levels of cancer-causing gases escaped into the atmosphere, Fulton County is taking a lead role in preparing to monitor the use of ethylene oxide at sites within its borders.

“Since our last board meeting (Aug. 21), the (Georgia) Environmental Protection Division and the Sterilization Services of Georgia have met on the use of ethylene oxide in its operations at a site on Boat Rock Road in unincorporated Fulton County,” said Dr. Pamela Roshell, Fulton’s deputy chief operating officer for health and human services. “The focus of that meeting related to air quality as well as plans to look at data which will determine future plans.”

Roshell gave the Fulton Board of Commissioners an update on the situation with Sterigenics and any possible similar plants in the county that could emit carcinogens during its meeting Sept. 4 at Assembly Hall in downtown Atlanta.

In late July WebMD and Georgia Health News reported that elevated emissions of ethylene oxide have been produced by Sterigenics, an Oak Brook, Illinois-based company, at its plant in Smyrna.

Cobb County and the cities of Atlanta and Smyrna partnered to fund an air quality test separate from the one the Georgia Environmental Protection Division is conducting both in Smyrna and at a similar BD Bard-owned plant in Covington that has also released carcinogens.

At the Sept. 3 meeting District 1 Commissioner Liz Hausmann led the board in a discussion on the Sterigenics issue since Commission Chair Robb Pitts did not return after its lunch break and Vice Chair Lee Morris was absent. Hausmann referred to the board’s Aug. 21 recess meeting, when Roshell gave it another update on the situation, especially when it comes to testing air quality at certain sites.

“We at Fulton County Health Services do not have anyone on our staff to test air quality,” Roshell said. “However, I am developing a proposal related to how cities like Smyrna are approaching this air quality testing, and I will send that information to you in the form of a memo on how it relates to Fulton County possibly doing its own testing.”

Hausmann said it was important to do such air quality testing “in any areas that could be at risk.”

Roshell said at the Aug. 21 meeting the state’s own air quality monitoring results should be available in November, and she would again meet with the board once they are submitted.

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