EPA and Columbus Factory Discuss Risks
By Fred Knapp , Reporter/Producer Nebraska Public Media
16 Aug 2022, 4 p.m. ·
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says emissions from a factory in Columbus increase the risks of cancer in the community. The company says the facility is safe, and getting safer.
The EPA says the risk comes from ethylene oxide used at Becton Dickinson Pharmaceutical Systems in Columbus to sterilize medical equipment and materials. The agency published a map showing that if people about half a mile from the East 19th Street plant breathed the air 24 hours a day for 70 years, there would be one additional cancer case per 10,000 people, or 100 per one million people. The EPA says that’s a worst-case scenario, and it’s committed to working with state and local agencies, facilities and communities to reduce the risk.
Becton Dickinson spokesman Troy Kirkpatrick says the company’s facility is safe and meets all current emissions restrictions that apply to what comes out of the manufacturing process. And he says construction is underway for controls to capture additional so-called “residual” emissions from products stored in the company’s warehouse.
“We’re going to put the technology in place, we’re going to do that ahead of the regulation, ahead of the requirements, and that will be done within six months. And we have already started construction of those and that will be done within six months. And after those additional controls are in place, we will be below that 100 in a million risk threshold that the EPA has set for these types of facilities,” Kirkpatrick said.
The Columbus plant is one of 23 nationwide where the EPA says the risks from ethylene oxide are the highest. It says air near the facilities does not exceed short-term health benchmarks, but it is concerned that a lifetime of exposure could lead to long term health impacts at current levels of emissions. Becton Dickinson reported in February it had just over one ton of ethylene oxide emissions from the Columbus plant last year. EPA says it will hold a community meeting in Columbus this month or next where people can learn more about ethylene oxide risks.
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