EPA to host meetings on potentially cancer-causing chemical emissions in Memphis neighborhood

Sterilization Services of Tennessee, located at 2396 Florida Street in South Memphis
Sterilization Services of Tennessee, located at 2396 Florida Street in South Memphis(Action News 5)
Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 3:41 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Shelby County Health Department (SCHD) will soon publicize public meetings that the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is hosting regarding potentially cancer-causing ethylene oxide (EtO) emissions in a Memphis neighborhood.

The emissions are associated with the Sterilization Services of Tennessee plant in South Memphis.

The plant located off Florida Street uses ethylene oxide to disinfect medical equipment, from catheters to syringes to pacemakers.

The EPA has warned those who live near the plant that long-term exposure to the chemical could lead to health risks, including cancer.

Two meetings will both take place on Thursday, June 8, at Bloomfield Baptist Church in Memphis, with virtual and telephone options.

Online registration is required to attend virtually.

Those who wish to attend are asked to use the registration links below:

  • Community Meeting #1: 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
    • Location: Bloomfield Baptist Church, 123 S. Parkway West
    • Call-in No: (833) 435-1820
    • Webinar ID: 160 332 1079
    • Register: https://bit.ly/3N3YTyh
  • Community Meeting #2: 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
    • Location: Bloomfield Baptist Church, 123 S. Parkway West
    • Call-in No: (833) 568-8864
    • Webinar ID: 161 735 9312
    • Register: https://bit.ly/3Myq82h
EPA announces dangerous chemicals at Memphis plant.

SCHD encourages residents to attend the meetings to learn more about EPA’s proposed new standards regarding EtO emissions.

On April 11, 2023, the EPA announced new proposed restrictions on facilities using EtO to sterilize medical devices and other products. The EPA projects, that once finalized, the proposed new rules under the Air Quality Act (1967)/Clean Air Act may reduce the EtO emissions allowed by commercial sterilizers like Sterilization Services of Tennessee by an estimated 80%.

“This more protective standard proposed by the EPA will significantly lower emissions from Sterilization Services of Tennessee,” said Dr. Michelle Taylor, Shelby County Health Department director-health officer. “Once the new EPA rule is in effect, the Health Department will work with the EPA to enforce the newly adopted standard.”

On March 25, SCHD released the findings from a cancer incidence study conducted by the Tennessee Department of Health’s Cancer Registry. The study summary and related information are posted on Shelby County Health Department’s official website, ShelbyTNHealth.com.

The study did not identify any clusters of the types of cancer linked to EtO exposure in the area immediately surrounding the Sterilization Services of Tennessee facility. However, other studies are pending.

Public comment is an important part of the EPA’s rule revision process.

Per the EPA, all public comments must be submitted by June 27, 2023.

Residents may submit comments in the following ways:

  • By completing an online form: https://www.epa.gov/hazardous-air-pollutantsethylene-oxide
  • By E-mail: Send comments by email to a-and-r-docket@epa.gov, Attention Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2019-0178. Please include the docket number in the subject line of your email message.
  • By U.S. Postal Service: Send mail to Environmental Protection Agency, EPA Docket Center (EPA/DC), Mail Code 28221T, Attention Docket ID No. EPA-HQOAR-2019-0178, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20460.

For more information about the EPA public meetings on June 8, 2023, please email Region4EtO@epa.gov or call the EPA at 1-800-241-1754.

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