Ethylene Oxide (EtO)

The chemical ethylene oxide (EtO) has long been known to be highly toxic, but in recent years, studies indicate the chemical may be hazardous at much lower concentrations than previously thought. Late in 2022, the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced results from its recent studies of EtO emissions at legacy commercial sterilizer facilities in 23 locations around the country, including one here in Memphis. That plant, located at 2396 Florida Street in southwest Memphis, is operated by Sterilization Services of Tennessee.
EtO moleculeThe EPA hosted two meetings at Bloomfield Baptist Church on Thursday, June 8, 2023. View recordings of those meetings here:

EPA is accepting public comments about these proposed revised regulations for commercial sterilizers, including Sterilization Services of Tennessee. Public comments are an important part of the EPA's rule revision process, and concerned Memphis residents are encouraged to participate. All public comments must be submitted by June 27, 2023.

To submit a comment online, click the button below:

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Comments may also be submitted by email or U.S. Postal Service. Please follow the instructions below:

  • E-mail: Send comments by email to, Attention Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2019-0178. Please include the docket number in the subject line of your email message. 
  • Mail: Environmental Protection Agency, EPA Docket Center (EPA/DC), Mail Code 28221T, Attention Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2019-0178, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20460. 

Shelby County Health Department is working with EPA to notify residents who live near the sterilization plant about risks posed by EtO. 

SCHD requested a cancer incidence study by the Tennessee Department of Health's Tennessee Cancer Registry of the area of Sterilization Services of Tennessee. State epidemiologists studied rates of cancer in census tracts surrounding Sterilization Services of Tennessee compared to rates in another group of census tracts located elsewhere in Shelby County. The purpose: to find any cancer clusters that could be linked to EtO emissions from the Sterilization Services facility. 

Shelby County Health Department hosted a community meeting at Monumental Baptist Church in South Memphis on Tuesday, March 28, 2023, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. during which Health Director-Health Officer Dr. Michelle Taylor presented the findings from the cancer cluster investigations. 

Learn more about EtO:  click here for answers to some frequently asked questions about the chemical and potential health impacts. 

Last updated on June 12, 2023