Cobb Residents Voice Concerns Over Airborne Emission Of Toxin Linked To Cancer

Jul 31, 2019

“Shut it down!”

These words echoed through the auditorium at Campbell Middle School in Cobb County, where more than 200 concerned residents crammed in for a meeting Tuesday night with Sterigenics and elected officials.

The company, which sterilizes medical products, leapt into the spotlight recently, after a WebMD and Georgia Health News report that detailed the prevalence of the chemical, ethylene oxide,  in the Cobb and Covington areas.

Sterigenics uses ethylene oxide in its operations and has a facility in Smyrna. The EPA has classified the gas as carcinogenic.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: High Concentration of Toxin Linked To Airborne Cancer Found in Georgia

The company’s president, Phil MacNabb, attempted to quell concerns by telling the crowd that they inhale ethylene oxide in their everyday life, like when diesel trucks roll by or when a banana on their counter starts to rot.

But Ben Johnson, who’s live in Smyrna since the '70s, was a little skeptical.

“I want to see independent testing,” Johnson said.

He said he wants to see numbers outside of the company’s self-reported figures.

According to MacNabb, the company was releasing thousands of pounds of the gas into the atmosphere from the early 2000s until 2015. Now, they’re only emitting 200 pounds, he said.

"I have concerns about having breathed the air from 2002 to 2015, when they were emitting 3,000 pounds of this stuff,” Johnson said. “Now they're saying they're emitting 200 pounds so, I should have less concern. But I can’t go back and un-breathe the air."

County Commissioner Bob Ott and Georgia Sen. Jen Jordan both called for third party testing of the air quality around the facility.

“We’ll find money in the budget to make it happen,” Smyrna Councilman Tim Gould said. “There’s some room there to deal with emergency issues when they come up like this."