EPA concerned about air quality around South Memphis business

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — FOX13 has a health warning for people living in South Memphis.

The air you breathe may be making you sick over time.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has told the city a sterilization plant on Florida street could be emitting hazardous fumes into the air.

READ MORE: EPA: Chemical in medical-device cleanser poses cancer risk

The mayor of Memphis is now demanding the air to be tested around the facility Sterilization Services of Tennessee.

The facility uses a gas called ethylene oxide, or ETO, to clean things like medical equipment.

Over time, exposure to ETO can lead to a host of health issues.

Though the facility is following the environmental protection agency’s current safety rules and regulations, the EPA said they’re learning new information about ETO emissions and how they’re released into the air.

During the four-day monitoring period, Mayor Strickland said the company he hired reported ETO levels were not detected over permissible limits.

Mayor Strickland said the city will send the testing results to about 300 homes just north of the plant.

He said the findings are preliminary, and he wants the EPA to make a final determination.

“I urge EPA to come in here as fast as they can test the air and communicate with the public on what the issue is, what the chemical is, what are the levels that are appropriate,” Mayor Strickland said.

Mayor Strickland said the city is working with the health department, and residents will be made aware of future findings.

The people FOX13′s reporter Mandy Hrach talked to, said they’re glad action is being taken.

“They need to do something. We’ve got kids and everything living around here. We’re trying to live, we’re not trying to die,” Rico John said.

The city said it will send the testing results to about 300 homes just north of the plant.

The EPA has not yet tested the air themselves.

The occupational safety and health administration says short contact with ETO may result in respiratory irritation and lung injury, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath, and cyanosis.OSHA says chronic exposure has been associated with cancer, reproductive effects, mutagenic changes, neurotoxicity, and sensitization.