The City of Memphis has been made aware the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be reaching out to the community surrounding the Sterilization Services of Tennessee facility located 2396 Florida Street located in South Memphis. The EPA plans to share information about air samples taken around this location.
Sterilization Services of Tennessee is a commercial sterilizer that uses a chemical gas called ethylene oxide (EtO) 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 following the EPA’s current rules and regulations. However, the EPA has new information about EtO emissions at certain commercial sterilizer facilities and is engaging with communities near the facilities to develop more protective Clean Air Act standards for EtO emissions.
“Today’s EPA announcement about the possibility of increased risk around facilities that use EtO understandably raises concerns of people that live in the area,” Mayor Jim Strickland said. “I will do everything I can to get immediate and definitive testing by EPA of this facility and information to our citizens so that we can understand whether a risk exists and what we can do to mitigate it. When I was informed about this pending announcement, I immediately contracted with an environmental company to test the air near the facility. I was relieved to know that during the four-day monitoring period levels of EtO were not detected over OSHA determined permissible limits, but despite those findings, our community deserves to know the results of definitive monitoring as soon as possible. We will work closely with our partners at Shelby County and the Shelby County Health Department to keep you informed.”
We’ve linked to the commissioned air quality assessment report from Tioga Environmental Consultants below. In addition, the City will send this information by mail, to the 292 homes in the community just North of the facility.
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About ethylene oxide: 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.