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EPA, Shelby County Health Department to hold public webinar on ethylene oxide emissions in South Memphis

The EPA’s public informational webinar will be held vis Zoom on May 1, 2023. Online registration is required.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County Health Department said the EPA will hold a public informational webinar Monday, May 1, 2023, about its proposed new restrictions on facilities which use ethylene oxide (EtO).

The new restrictions come amid concerns about cancer risks from EtO emissions.

The chemical is used to sterilize medical devices and other products. The EPA projects that EtO emissions allowed by companies like Sterilization Services of Tennessee would be cut 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.”

The EPA’s public informational webinar will be held vis Zoom. Online registration is required. Register here: https://www.epa.gov/hazardous-air-pollutants-ethylene-oxide/forms/ethylene-oxide-eto-public-webinars#register

The EPA will also hold public hearings on the Clean Air Act actions May 2 and 3 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and May 4 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. To register for public hearings, click here.

The Shelby County Health Department said findings released March 25 from a cancer incidence study by Tennessee’s Department of Health Cancer Registry did not identify any cancer clusters linked to the South Memphis plant. Other studies are also being done.

The EPA said EtO has been present in the air around Sterilization Services of Tennessee's building since the 1970s. According to the Union for Concerned Scientists, it has led to 82% of cancer risk in Mallory Heights.

The health departments said it has requested a “Public Health Assessment (PHA) and a Health Consultation (HC) from the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to identify health risks related to the usage of Ethylene Oxide (EtO) and other chemicals in the area surrounding the Sterilization Services facility.”

“The Health Department will keep the community surrounding the Sterilization Services of Tennessee facility informed about the EPA’s standards revision process and ensure the concerns of Memphis residents are kept at the forefront at all times. SCHD isher also committed to informing residents about health risks and screenings and treatment resources available to them,” said a news release.

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