MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The United States Environmental Protection Agency hosted a community meeting Thursday morning aimed at addressing a toxic chemical spreading across South Memphis.
Community advocates and the U.S. EPA are sounding the alarm about the impact of Ethylene oxide, discussing the colorless, flammable gas and how it’s affecting those who live near commercial sterilizers, including Sterilization Services of Tennessee in South Memphis.
“This is the most important urgent issue concerning Memphians across this city,” said Keshaun Pearson with Memphis Community Against Pollution.
“We have learned that Ethylene oxide is more toxic than we initially thought it was,” said Caroline Freeman with Environmental Protection Agency. “We’re concerned about people being exposed for long periods of time. When I say long periods of time to this pollution, we’re talking about 70 years, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
For years, many in the area have expressed concerns about living near the facility. A study by the Tennessee Department of Health finds that the chemical causes a higher risk of cancer.
Stomach cancer was among the most prevalent over a 20-year span.
Alfred Campbell, a South Memphis resident, says he was diagnosed with stomach cancer after living near the facility. He says it underscores the need for changes.
📧 Sign up for WREG newsletters and have the latest top stories sent right to your inbox.
📲 Download the WREG App today and stay up to date with breaking news and weather.
📡 See more breaking news, local news and weather from WREG.com for Memphis and the Mid South.
“They gave me six months to live,” Campbell said. “They need to do something about it ’cause you got kids out here, they born deformed because of these chemicals plants and stuff. Strokes and cancer, all kinds of diseases.”
The EPA is now looking to propose stricter standards and strengthen federal regulations, with the hope it can reduce the impact on people living in South Memphis.
“We’re continuing to work very closely with Memphis-Shelby county to address air pollution in the Memphis area and we continue to do so to reduce air pollution,” Freeman said.
Thursday night from 7:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m., another community meeting will be held at Bloomfield Baptist church.
You can call (833) 568-8864; Webinar ID: 161 735 9312 or Register to join the community meeting virtually at https://bit.ly/3Myq82h if you can not attend in person.