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Plant seeks OK by GEDP

Staff Written Front Page, News

By Tia Lynn Ivey

Managing editor 

Monitoring ethylene oxide emissions has been on the forefront of Georgia’s radar for over a year, after a firestorm of criticism was levied again Georgia companies using the carcinogenic gas, including Becton Dickinson (BD), which operates plants in Covington and Madison. Last year, the Covington plant was temporarily shutdown while an investigation into emission levels was conducted and the company entered into a consent agreement to make several technological  changes and upgrades. 

This week, BD and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GEPD) released statements indicating that BD, formerly Bard, is in line with the state’s ethylene oxide emission standards. Although, the final results of air monitoring is not yet complete. According to the GEPD, both the Covington and Madison plant have complied with the consent agreement and installed new infrastructure to lower ethylene oxide emissions.

“In response to a recent change in US EPA’s risk value for ethylene oxide, Georgia EPD required BD Covington and BD Madison to reduce their ethylene oxide emissions using the best available control technology,” said Karen Hays, chief of the Georgia EPD Air Protection Branch. “On March 31, 2020, the new air pollution control systems at BD Covington became operational.  On June 30, 2020, the new air pollution control systems at BD Madison became operational.  EPD has verified that the air pollution controls systems at BD Covington are operating properly, and are awaiting the final report on the BD Madison validation testing. Georgia EPD continues to monitor for ethylene oxide concentrations in five areas of the state, including in the area near the BD Covington facility.”

A spokesperson for BD, Beth McKenna, reports that BD’s ethylene oxide emissions are on par with the state’s standards, as well as with other ethylene oxide companies across the nation. 

“This data shows that average levels of EtO in Covington, Ga. are exactly the same as

the levels found in the rural General Coffee State Park and below levels found at EPD’s

background monitoring station in South DeKalb, Ga. approximately 30 miles from BD’s facility in Covington,” explained Mckenna. “The data also show that average levels across the greater Atlanta area are about the same in areas where there are EtO sterilization facilities and areas where there are not EtO sterilization facilities. The data suggests that those who live in communities with sterilization facilities are exposed to similar amounts of EtO as those who do not live near the facilities because of other sources of EtO, including naturally occurring sources.”

Back in March, the GEPD worked with BD on upping producing of medical equipment due to the nationwide shortage because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

“The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) and Becton Dickinson and Company (BD) filed a joint motion to amend the judicial consent order in Newton County Superior Court. Today the Court issued an order approving the amendment,” said a GEPD press release in March. “The amendment temporarily increases the number of medical devices BD is allowed to sterilize and allows BD to make temporary changes to its aeration time.  This change increases the limits on product lots sterilized per month from 600 to 825 in Covington and from 603 to 685 in Madison and modifies the minimum heated aeration period for sterilized product from 24 to 20 hours at the Covington facility.  These changes are necessary to ensure hospitals have enough sterilized medical devices available to treat the influx of COVID-19 patients.  The equipment sterilized at these facilities of specific concern include Foley catheter procedural trays, Foley catheters, PICC line catheters, and acute dialysis catheters.”

To keep up with the GEPD’s air monitoring results: visit  www.epd.georgia.gov/ethylene-oxide-information. 

“We continue to share our ethylene oxide data with US EPA, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the Georgia Department of Health,” said Hays who noted the final results are not yet completed. 

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