COBB COUNTY, Ga. — The city of Atlanta said that Monday it plans to join with the governments of Cobb County and Smyrna to conduct air testing near the Sterigenics plant over concerns about emissions of a toxic gas.
City Councilman Dustin Hillis, whose district is near the Sterigenics plant in Smyrna, has introduced legislation to join the local governments to test for ethylene oxide, a carcinogen.
Earlier this month, Cobb and Smyrna approved funds to pay for testing by GHD Environmental and Consulting Inc. to determine the concentration of ethylene oxide in the area.
The chemical is used by Sterigenics at its Smyrna facility to sterilize products for health care companies.
Concerns about emissions emerged this summer after a report by WebMD and Georgia Health News highlighted a federal study that found several census tracts in Georgia, including three in Cobb and Fulton counties, had elevated cancer risks due to the gas.
On Monday, Channel 2's Sophia Choi spoke with Cobb County residents as they met with experts at an open house at the Cobb Civic Center to address community concerns.
Jo Ann Keller lives a stone's throw away from the Sterigenics plant. She survived cancer once and doesn't want to get it again.
"I'm very concerned about the health involved, I have had breast cancer and I can't imagine all the little children that are being born into the area here," she said.
Sterigenics says it met state and federal requirements but will now implement tougher emissions controls.
Neighbors say that's not enough. They want the company out of the area.
"Sterigenics should not be in a local environment that you have so highly populated," John Keller said.
"If there's a chemical you know causes cancer, I do not understand how you can even use it," Kay Cleveland said.
Sterigenics is one of two Georgia plants under state and local investigation for toxic air. The other is BD Bard in Covington.
Residents are now suing, saying their health and home values are at risk.
By law, potential chemical exposure must be disclosed to potential home buyers.
"My property value is definitely a concern. But your health -- you just can't get that back," Cleveland said.
After the open house, experts gave a presentation about the situation.
Gov. Brian Kemp sent Channel 2 Action News the following statement:
"As Governor, my number one job is keeping Georgia families safe. While we had productive conversations with BD Bard and Sterigenics this afternoon, our work is not done. I appreciate Sterigenics' willingness to voluntarily agree to a significant reduction in ethylene oxide emissions. This proactive measure demonstrates the company's commitment to the local community and helps to restore public confidence in its operations. Now, BD Bard should do the same. My administration remains committed to the safety of Georgians in every corner of our state, and we will continue to operate with transparency and demand accountability throughout this process."
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