Local residents in Smyrna and Covington are outraged. A WebMD Article recently revealed that for years they may have been exposed to a cancer-causing chemical that was being released into the air by two local companies.
An EPA report in 2018 highlighted 109 Census tracts across the nation at a higher risk for cancer due to airborne toxins. The risks are reported to be driven by ethylene oxide - a cancer-causing agent used (at these plants) to sterilize medical equipment among other things. It's more commonly used to create other chemicals, including antifreeze.
Three of the Census tracts with highest readings are in Georgia. Two in Smyrna, one in Covington and the Newton County.
According to the Marietta Daily Journal: "The report estimated that around Smyrna, ethylene oxide causes 114 extra cases of cancer for every million people exposed over their lifetimes. In Covington, it estimated the gas causes 214 cases for every million people exposed."
Sterigenics in Smyrna and BD Bard in Covington are among the companies releasing the toxins.
It's important to note that in recent years, the United States Environmental Protection Agency updated its classification for ethylene oxide from "Likely to cause cancer" to "Definitely causes cancer."
Here's the scary part, the companies are releasing more of the chemical than allowed, but it's not illegal because the companies have state permits and are following those guidelines.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says exposure can lead to physical and health hazards, such as respiratory irritation and lung injury. Other ailments are headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath and turn the skin blue.
Chronic exposure can cause damaging reproductive effects, changes to or damage to DNA, and can impact learning and the functions of the central and peripheral nervous systems.
The National Cancer Institute said it has also been commonly linked with blood cancers like lymphoma and leukemia, but other forms of cancer, like stomach and breast cancer, could come from exposure to ethylene oxide as well.
Residents in the area recently spoke with the MDJ. For more details read here