Hospital denies claims of improper chemical disposal

CONYERS - Newton Medical Center officials denied any wrongdoing Tuesday after being accused of improperly disposing of chemicals in the hospital laboratory.

A report by Atlanta's Fox 5 News on Monday night reported that an NMC employee accused hospital lab workers of allegedly pouring formaldehyde down a sink drain.

The employee, identified as Janell O'Neil, said she believed the lab improperly disposed of the formaldehyde, and she expressed her concern to a supervisor.

NMC spokeswoman Sharon Barbour said the hospital does follow recommended procedures to dispose of formaldehyde, and the

hospital's lab passed an annual inspection in July by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

"The process that our lab uses in the disposal of formaldehyde is an industry standard of operating procedure," Barbour said in an e-mail response to the Citizen. "To take an extra step in protecting our water supply, the lab recently started using a neutralizing agent during the disposal process."

She added, "This employee's claim is unfounded and apparently is a result of some confusion on her part."

Formaldehyde is a colorless, strong-smelling gas that is used as a preservative in medical laboratories and mortuaries. Though formaldehyde is a gas at room temperature, it is easily soluble in water or alcohol.

It's also listed as a possible carcinogen by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The chemical makeup of formaldehyde is carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, and it eventually breaks down when exposed to sunlight, according to OSHA's Web site.

Barbour explained the hospital lab dilutes formaldehyde with four parts water.

Calls to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to confirm whether the NMC is being investigated were not returned.

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.