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South Memphis residents want more action on cancer-causing emissions near their homes

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is holding two meetings Thursday at Bloomfield Baptist Church at 123 S. Parkway West.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Some residents in South Memphis say local health leaders not doing enough for those who may have been exposed to a cancer-causing chemical.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency held the first of two meetings Thursday morning at Bloomfield Baptist Church at 123 S. Parkway West. A second meeting is set for 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday night.

“Our Shelby County Health Department has chosen to reinforce the expectation of Black bodies, Black death, and to do nothing about it,” said one resident at the meeting.

“You can't depend on someone else to care about your people more than you care about, not just yourself, but your community. It's just not going to happen,” said Jonathan Reid, whose family lives in South Memphis.

The EPA said the chemical ethylene oxide (EtO) seeped into the air for decades from Sterilization Services of Tennessee on Florida Street near the I-55 and 3rd Street interchange.

The agency said it tracked cancer rates near the facility over two decades and found an unusually high number of residents with stomach cancer.

The EPA is proposing stronger limits on EtO emissions under the Clean Air Act, and a broad set of protections under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. Read the EPA's proposed rules HERE.

The comment periods for the proposed rule and the proposed decision is set to close on June 27, 2023. The Shelby County Health Department said it is encouraging the public to let their voices be heard. There are several ways people can comment on the proposals. Learn more HERE

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