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New legislation filed in Georgia General Assembly to regulate ethylene oxide
Would affect BD Bard plant in Covington
Georgia State Capitol
The Georgia State Capitol. - photo by David Clemons

ATLANTA — Manufacturers that use the cancer-causing chemical ethylene oxide could face additional restrictions in Georgia under legislation pre-filed in the state House of Representatives.

House Bill 3 would require facilities seeking a permit to release more than 50 pounds of ethylene oxide annually to let the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) install electronic devices to continuously monitor those emissions and release the findings at least twice a year.

Ethylene oxide is used primarily to sterilize medical equipment, a need that has drawn a great deal of attention during the coronavirus pandemic.

The need for tighter regulation of the chemical became apparent last winter after public concerns were raised over unreported releases at a Sterigenics plant in Smyrna and a facility in Covington operated by BD Bard.

The General Assembly responded during this year’s legislative session by passing a bill introduced in the state Senate requiring manufacturers that use ethylene oxide to report any waste spills or gas releases to the EPD within 24 hours. The director of the EPD then must post the information on the agency’s  website.

“We made progress during the previous legislative session to report ethylene oxide spills through Senate Bill 426,” said Rep. Erick Allen, D-Smyrna, sponsor of House Bill 3. “I hope that the state legislature will act swiftly to help monitor emitting patterns and help prevent the risks that threaten our communities.”

Allen’s bill also would require manufacturers releasing ethylene oxide to submit a detailed ambient air plan to the EPD by January 2022.