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Toxic Gas, EPA Silence Prompt Concern Near Georgia Factories


Residents near two Georgia plants which have emitted toxic gas say they're furious that the government did not alert the public about a federal report on potential health dangers.

Hundreds of people packed two recent town hall meetings in Marietta and Covington, where the two companies use ethylene oxide to sterilize medical devices.

The meetings followed news stories about a 2018 report that identified Census tracts near the two businesses where residents could face health risks.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chose not to issue press releases about the study or take other steps to inform the public about it, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported .

The EPA did provide Georgia's Environmental Protection Division with talking points about the report in case someone stumbled upon it on the EPA's website and asked questions.

Eventually, WebMD and Georgia Health News in July published a story about the federal report and the potential dangers it outlined. The story surprised and concerned residents living near the two factories.

An EPA official at last week's community meeting in Covington apologized for not publicizing the National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) report.

"I'm sorry this happened and next time the NATA comes out we will be much more thoughtful about how and when we communicate with the public," said Ken Mitchell, deputy director of the EPA's air and radiation office in the Southeast.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division has said that it would conduct months-long air testing near the two plants. Cobb County and the cities of Smyrna and Atlanta also announced they'd pay for their own independent testing.

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