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Q&A: 'We don't have anything to hide'
BD employees sound off amid ethylene oxide concerns
Photo ID (L-R): Jenna Tipton, sterilization receiving logistics coordinator; Walt Hayes, weekend team leader; Bill Mitchell, weekday shift team leader for the sterilization department; and Patty Zackery, receptionist. - photo by Caitlin Jett

COVINGTON, Ga. - Amid ethylene oxide concerns in and around Newton County, four Becton Dickinson, or BD, employees sat down with The Covington News to discuss their thoughts about the ongoing issue.

Patty Zackery, receptionist, has been with the company more than 50 years; Bill Mitchell, weekday shift team leader for the sterilization department, has been with the company for more than 30 years; Walt Hayes, weekend team leader, has been with the company more than 25 years; and Jenna Tipton, sterilization receiving logistics coordinator, has been with the company for four years.

The News: What has kept you employed with the company for so long, especially the ones who have been here for more than a decade?

Mitchell: Good company to work for. Good benefits. Good pay.

Zackery: I enjoy the people I get to meet from all over the world. I just enjoy what I do.

Hayes: I think it's like a second family.

The News: Do you see a future here?

Tipton: I've been promoted twice since I've been here in four years, and I still work with the same people, which is kind of what I wanted. I like the sterilization team. Everybody has a different job, but everybody kind of works together. Like [Hayes] said, it's like a second family.

The News: What were your initial thoughts when the July 19 WebMD article was published? 

Tipton: I was just thinking that people don't really understand what we do here. I wasn't here the day that it came out, but I had friends sending me the article on my phone. I was reading, and I was like: "What is this?" So I felt like people just don't understand. I tried explaining the friends of mine that were sending it, and people were posting it on Facebook. They just start freaking out, but they don't understand how it works.

Mitchell: A lot of misinformation.

Tipton: Yeah, a lot. 

Hayes, who had been in the hospital at the time: I was seeing this article on the news, and I'm like: "I got some of this product that's being used on me right now." I was thinking that my company was really safe. I've been here that long.

The News: Have you ever felt as if your health was at risk while working here?

Tipton: I actually do the gas monitoring for all the employees, every quarter, on the sterilization end. I’ve never felt uncomfortable because I’ve never turned anything into the lab that’s ever come back that's been an issue or anything like that. I feel like if I've would have doing that and something would have come back, I would have been like: "Uh, I don't I want to work at a place like that." 

I've never had an issue where anything has come back, and I monitor these guys that are out there in the vessels. They're monitored all over this department, and nothing's ever come back with an issue. That's what makes me feel comfortable.

As far as when all that came out, I feel like BD has taken all the measures to accommodate everyone who has asked questions, so I feel like they aren’t trying to hide everything. It doesn’t concern me because we don’t have anything to hide.

Mitchell: We have a lot of monitoring systems in place to monitor the sterilization facility that Walt and I monitor every day, all day. If we ever have an issue, it alerts us early that there might be a potential problem so we can address it. It keeps us safe here and the community safe as well.

The News: What would you like to tell the citizens who are worried about their health?

Mitchell: I’ve been here 31 years, and I have friends that have already retired and were here over 40 years - no cancer, no problems. They’re safe. We’re making sure everything is running like it should.

Tipton: They think it's an extremely terrible gas and all, but it's actually all over. Even if they were in the middle of Florida where there's not even a plant that sterilizes anything with gas, that gas is from natural things around us. If they did their research, I think they’d have a better understanding of that gas and what else produces that.

Hayes: This company has gone above and beyond as far as looking out for their safety and health, and the health of their employees.

Tipton: We have so many regulations and training.

Zackery: I feel like if something was wrong with it then I would have had something by now after 51 and a half years.