MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Environmental Protection Agency is warning South Memphis residents about a dangerous chemical polluting the air and potentially causing cancer.

Tuesday, the Shelby County Health Department had a public meeting to discuss solutions.

The EPA is reaching out to hundreds of South Memphis residents about a chemical used at Sterilization Services of Tennessee located at 2396 Florida St. The chemical, called ethylene oxide is used to sterilize medical and dental equipment. 

The company has used the chemical since 1976.

The EPA says its studies show lifetime exposure to those who live and work near the plant can seriously increase their chances for cancer.

“When people have long-term exposure to ETO, it can cause certain types of cancers like breast cancer in women and lymphoma or blood cancers,” a representative at Tuesday’s meeting said. “I also want to be clear there is also potential risk for people who work at this facility or work near this facility or go to school near this facility.”

The EPA is now working on new regulations with federal state and local partners bringing in Shelby County Health Department Director Dr. Michelle Taylor.

“I don’t want people to worry but I do want people to be engaged and continue to lift their voices on this issue,” Dr. Taylor said.

The EPA says new regulation will be proposed in the coming months with a final rule expected next year. From there the company will have two to three years to comply with the Clean Air Act.

The will be another meeting Tuesday night at 7:15 at Monumental Baptist Church.

You can watch the meeting online by clicking here.