COVINGTON, Ga. — Some leading medical groups are now sounding the alarm about the potential closure of plants using ethylene oxide.

That's the gas the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency labels as a carcinogenic toxin.  It's also used to sterilize medical equipment.

In a letter to the Food and Drug Administration, the group of doctors writes that "pacemakers and leads, angioplasty balloons, cardiac catheters and guiding sheaths, and other supplies and equipment used in the care of cardiovascular patients currently rely upon EtO for proper sterilization to ensure patient safety."

The letter was written by the heads of the American College of Cardiology, American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, the Heart Rhythm Society, the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions, the Society of Interventional Radiology, and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

"These complex medical devices currently have limited alternative sterilization processes available while others are suboptimal," the letter continues.

Locally, EtO is used at the BD Plant in Covington and the Sterigenics Plant in Smyrna. Sterigenics voluntarily closed back in August.

BD is refusing to close down the Covington plant. This week, the state of Georgia filed an official complaint to temporarily shut it down.

The two sides will be in court on Monday.

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