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Posted on: August 4, 2022

Shelby County Health Department to Assist EPA with Community Outreach in Memphis

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SHELBY COUNTY, TN – Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its plans to engage and inform communities on recently completed analyses of the risks posed by air emissions of ethylene oxide (EtO) from certain commercial sterilizers and the EPA’s efforts to address risks. As a result of that analysis, EPA will be conducting outreach to over 20 communities where there are elevated risk of long-term exposure to the harmful emissions. One community identified by the EPA is the area surrounding the Sterilization Services of Tennessee facility located at 2396 Florida Street in southwest Memphis. As a part of that outreach, EPA will host a community meeting in Memphis on September 8, 2022. 

We urge any concerned residents to register for the public meeting here: https://www.epa.gov/hazardous-air-pollutants-ethylene-oxide/forms/memphis-tennessee-sterilization-services-tennessee#form. Shelby County Health Department has been working closely with EPA, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Tennessee Department of Health and the City of Memphis as we prepare for the EPA’s community meeting, with the goal of ensuring that people in the surrounding community get the information they need about the results of EPA’s sampling of the air around the Sterilization Services of Tennessee location.

Sterilization Services of Tennessee is a commercial sterilizer that uses ethylene oxide (EtO) gas to sterilize devices such as medical equipment. The facility has been in operation since 1976. Shelby County Health Department’s Air Program has permitted the facility since 1985 and the facility is in compliance with the EPA’s current rules and regulations. However, the EPA has new information about EtO emissions at certain commercial sterilizer facilities in 23 locations around the country, including the one in Memphis. EPA is engaging with communities near those facilities to develop more protective Clean Air Act standards for EtO emissions.  

EtO is a colorless and flammable gas that is used in making other chemicals and products like antifreeze and plastic bottles, as well as to sterilize medical equipment and some spices. EPA analysis indicates that the air near facilities like Sterilization Services of Tennessee does not exceed short-term health benchmarks. However, the concern is that a lifetime of exposure to EtO emissions could lead to long-term health impacts if some of the facilities continue to emit at the current levels.

 For more information about EtO and Sterilization Services of Tennessee, visit https://www.epa.gov/hazardous-air-pollutants-ethylene-oxide/forms/memphis-tennessee-sterilization-services-tennessee. For more information and frequently asked questions about EtO and its health impacts, visit Ethylene Oxide (EtO) | Shelby County Health Dept., TN (shelbytnhealth.com)

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