The plants in Covington and Madison, Ga., both southeast of Atlanta, use ethylene oxide (EO) to sterilize medical devices. The federal Environmental Protection Agency recognizes EO as a carcinogen and lowered its limits on emissions of the sterilant gas in 2016. BD acquired the plants when it bought C.R. Bard in 2017.
BD said in a statement that it volunteered to design and install new emission-reduction technologies and processes to further reduce EO emissions at the plants. The company said it gave Georgia Governor Brian Kemp a plan to have an independent company validate its current emissions destruction of 99.95%, which exceeds the 99% regulatory
BD also said it has already begun work with external engineering firms and identified suppliers for additional pollution control technologies.
“BD will continue to work with Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to expedite the permitting process with full transparency to install these improvements as quickly as possible to the Covington and Madison facilities,” the company said in a statement. The plants are in compliance with federal EO emissions controls requirements and are “currently emitting significantly less ethylene oxide than assumed” in a 2014 National Air Toxics Assessment.
“BD is committed to ensuring its facilities are industry-leading from an environmental health and safety perspective, and we will continue to work collaboratively and transparently with regulators and the communities in which we operate to invest in the best available technologies for our facilities,” the company concluded.
The Georgia EPD said in a statement last week that it has begun monitoring air quality last week near BD’s Covington plant and near a Sterigenics EO plant in Smyrna, Ga. Sterigenics said in July that it has voluntarily reduced EO emissions at its Covington plant by 90% over the past five years. The company also said it is working with the Georgia EPD to upgrade emissions controls at the Covington plant similar to those it has pledged to use at its EO plant in Willowbrook, Ill.
The state of Illinois shut down the Willowbrook plant in February over EO emissions. The plant’s sudden closure caused some device shortages and a push by the FDA to come up with different methods to replace and improve EO sterilization.
As of this week, more than 40 lawsuits have been filed against Sterigenics by people who claim that emissions from the Willowbrook plant have adversely affected their or their relatives’ health. Sterigenics has argued that its plant was not the only source of ethylene oxide emissions in the neighborhood.
Sterigenics and the state of Illinois reached an agreement last month to reopen the plant in September and the company pledged to upgrade emissions controls at the plant, but a DuPage County judge delayed the reopening to allow Willowbrook and three other municipalities that surround it to join the lawsuit. Those municipalities have until September 6 to do so.