The alarming state of health of former employees exposed to a toxic industrial gas in the company Tetra Médical, in Ardèche, now liquidated, led the justice system to open an investigation on Friday and tongues are starting to loosen up.
This preliminary investigation for "
endangering the lives of others
" was entrusted "
to the gendarmerie region, which will seize the Central Office for the fight against attacks on the environment and public health (Oclaesp), and to the direction of work
, ”announced the prosecutor of Privas Cécile Deprade to AFP.
Another legal front also opened this week: the industrial tribunal of Annonay, where the company was headquartered, registered 51 files on Tuesday from former employees for "prejudice of anxiety
, indicated to AFP the lawyer specializing in occupational diseases François Lafforgue.
Thirty other files are in preparation.
to compensate employees at risk of serious illness
”, for exposure to ethylene oxide.
This carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic gas was used for several decades to sterilize medical and surgical equipment produced at Tetra (compresses, single-use kits, etc.) until the company was liquidated in February 2022. 160 people still worked there.
To my knowledge, this is the first file in France on massive exposure to this gas
", specifies Me Lafforgue.
The opening of the investigation follows the decision, announced on February 22 by the prefecture, the city and the agglomeration of Annonay, to create a “
psychological support unit
” for former employees.
The official press release evokes a “
Until October 2022, this concern was expressed in a restricted circle: "
we said to each other that these illnesses and these deaths were starting to do a lot...
", says Catherine Guironnet, 54, victim of two cancers in 2003 and 2019.
After 21 years at Tetra Médical as a production and then control agent, the employee decided to conduct her own research on ethylene oxide.
There, I understood that this gas was not as innocuous as that.
The company's security agents reassured us, explaining that it was a heavy gas, remaining on the ground.
In our minds, we said to ourselves that we feared nothing...
It was because “
someone had to trigger things
” that she decided in October to push the door of the local union of the CGT.
She talks about it with a fellow sterilization worker who is doing the same thing: his wife died of cancer after 17 years at Tetra.
The tongues then began to loosen up
”, sums up Raphaël Foïs, local CGT secretary.
Former employees parade through his office, public meetings are organized, with 50, 60, then 150 people... In this town of 17,000 inhabitants, "everyone
knows someone who has worked at Tetra
", explains the trade unionist.
The CGT transmits the testimonies to the lawyer.
The more this case progresses, the more we realize the extent of the damage.
Not much has been done correctly in this company
, ”said Mr. Lafforgue.
13 testimonials describing “cancers, congenital malformations” of “Tetra babies”
Has the management of Tetra Médical sufficiently applied prevention and information measures?
Has occupational medicine been alerted?
Was it willing or able to carry out checks?
Asked by AFP, the first did not respond, the second said that she had "
no statement to make
The lawyer for the employees refers to an occupational medicine report dating from November 2019 and evoking “
” following a visit carried out at the beginning of the year.
About twenty months later, two weeks before the liquidation, occupational medicine had blood samples taken from 19 employees.
Analyzes reveal abnormally high levels of ethylene oxide.
The damage may not end there.
Because serious pathologies are also found in children born to mothers employed in the company.
One of them, Aurélie Piot, collected 13 testimonies describing "
cancers, congenital malformations
" of "
", but also deficiency of "
fertility of mothers
We weren't singing about our problems on the rooftops... It won't be easy to prove, but it's a lot of coincidences...