A Call to Action of the Walton County community over potential EtO exposure

Guest Column by Cindy Jordan

As communities in Smyrna and Covington take on BD and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division over the controversial cancer-causing ethylene oxide (EtO) being released in both area from the BD plants, Walnut Grove resident Cindy Jordan has taken up the mantle for residents in Walton County. She has been in contact with public officials and speaking to communities in an attempt to educate people on the potential exposure to the air in Walton County as well. She will be speaking at the September Walton County Board of Commission meeting.

There will be a meeting from 5 – 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019 at the Courthouse in Covington. Jordan is asking everyone who shares her concern to join her. The Covington Courthouse is located at 1132 Usher St NW, Covington, GA 30014.

Cindy Jordan’s guest column follows:

 Walton & Newton County residents have potentially been exposed to Toxic levels of Ethylene Oxide -EtO for decades from a Sterilization Plant called BD (Becton Dickinson) formerly CR Bard, in Covington.  They began using EtO in 1987, and pumped out Tons and Tons of this Toxic gas into our air over the past several decades. In 1989, they SELF-Reported 101,755 lbs of ETO emissions. (per the EPS website). In 1990 it was 87,037 lbs of emissions. They have gradually been reducing that amount over the years. By 2013, it was 6,830 lbs. The Smyrna Sterigenics plant in 2014 SELF-reported 3,189 lbs of EtO emissions.  Both plants are supposedly in compliance over the past few years.  I’m sure when Billions of dollars of profit are on the line that we can completely trust SELF REPORTED Emissions numbers to be accurate, especially when they say they are now compliant.  To put that in perspective think about this fact: It only takes 1 molecule of EtO to alter your DNA……1 lb of EtO contains over 6 Septillion molecules…. And EtO molecules take approximately 14 months to completely degrade and with wind currents can travel around the world during that time.

In 2014, the EPA released their NATA (National Air Toxics Assessment) which listed 109 Air Pollution Hotspots. Those are the 109 MOST POLLUTED Census Tracts in the Entire USA…Bard in Covington was #37, and Sterigenics in Smyrna/Atlanta polluted 2 Census Tracts which were #69 and #73.  In these 109 Census tracts, the probability of contracting cancer from air pollution goes beyond the EPA’s upper limit of acceptable risk: 100 Cancer cases allowed per million people. Stop and think about that statement right there…. Since when did it become acceptable for 100 people/out of a million to get cancer before we start questioning that it might be caused from Environmental Factors? Tell that to those 100 people….. We need to eliminate any KNOWN CARCINOGENS that we CAN control such as EtO from Sterilization Plants.  There are other viable options these plants can use for sterilizing medical equipment, that won’t put the residents surrounding the Plants at a higher Risk for cancer. Our Government leaders need to CHANGE THE LAWS TO MANDATE THAT THESE COMPANIES CHANGE THOSE SYSTEMS OUT IMMEDIATELY!!!!!!!  

The EPA spent 10 years studying this issue and they compiled the results and the risks to the public and instead of releasing that info to us in August 2018 when they were done, they sat on that information……FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR!  We only became aware of this crisis because of an investigative reporter story that broke on July 19, 2019. How many babies have been born in Walton and Newton counties during that whole year? How many more people might have been exposed to this toxic gas because of the EPA’s secrecy and lack of transparency?  Their Silence has broken our Trust in our Government Leaders and Institutions to put the health and well-being of its people over the special interest groups and lobbyists that are keeping them silent.     

We are part of a bigger movement that started in Willowbrook, IL about 2 years ago that is called STOP STERIGENICS (Georgia). We decided we needed to break off and form our own Facebook group for the East side of Atlanta called SAY NO TO ETO! GEORGIA so we could better mobilize our people and educate our community about this issue.  Please follow us on Facebook to see all the news articles and research and developments regarding both of these areas.  Keep in mind that there are also plants in Winder, Madison and Augusta. Click on VIEW COVER PHOTO  on our group page to see All addresses for those 5 plants on the East side of Atlanta. Note that when you look at the 25 mile Danger Zone around each Plant, that the circles overlap in many areas. Those people are being exposed from multiple sources and directions at once. 

We have been diligent in educating and sharing information with all of our local City Council members, Mayors, Commissioners, as well as our Congressman, Senators and Governor. We are hopeful that OUR leaders will Take a Strong stand against big business AND Government Entities that need to be held accountable and change such as the EPA, EPD and the CDC. 

So What Needs To Be Done?  The First step is to make sure that we get Independent Phased Ambient Air Quality testing conducted up to 25 miles outside of these plants to assess exactly what our true ETO exposure is.  Once those results come in, if it is higher than the allowable amount, than we EXPECT these Companies to be shut down until they can change out their Sterilization Systems for a better and safer system that doesn’t use EtO. There are viable options out there for Sterilization that doesn’t use EtO and endanger the communities around the plant.

Additionally, we need legislators to change the laws to give power to the EPA to step in and enforce those consequences.  This needs to happen on a Federal level. Sadly, there are other communities all across America that have no idea that their families are being exposed to this toxic gas. That needs to change…It should not be up to a small factory community to fight the big corporations that have unlimited resources.  We all have the right to breath clean air regardless of where we live in America. 

Finally, we want to request a Cancer cluster Investigation done in Walton and Newton County.  Stop and think for a moment of all the people you know that have been diagnosed in the last few years with cancer. I know of 40 people in my area alone…. That is epidemic proportions.

Please plan to attend our Community Meeting on Tuesday night at the Covington courthouse. The EPA and EPD determined that the format for this meeting needed to change from our city council meeting last week. They will be at Tables where individuals can ask them questions from 5-7. Then they will speak from 7-9. Please look for our SAY NO TO ETO! Table and buy an orange and black shirt with that logo on it to wear for the meeting.  

Let’s Stand Together as a United Front!

Cindy Jordan


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