MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The fight for clean air in South Memphis continues.

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a new set of restrictions on facilities like Sterilization Services of Tennessee that use the cancer-causing chemical ethylene oxide, or EtO.

The EPA says the new rules would help reduce ethylene oxide gas that facilities release by 80%.

"I worry about the pollutants in the air," Darwell, of South Memphis, said.

Darwell, who did not provide his last name, deals with respiratory issues, including COPD.

He said that his health has gotten worse since he moved into a house near Sterilization Services of Tennessee.

"I don't really even come outside," he said. "I stay in the house most of the time."

The plant uses the colorless, odorless gas ethylene oxide to sterilize medical equipment.

New research from the EPA indicates the cancer-causing chemical is much more dangerous than originally thought.

"A lot of people feel like they put these places in areas where there are mostly African Americans and people of color, knowing that it will cause dangerous things to happen to us," Tanesha Bates, of South Memphis, said.

One of the EPA's proposed rules would set stricter pollution controls and mandate advanced monitoring.

Another aims to decrease risks for workers who use EtO.

However, it could take years before people who live in the area see any changes.

The EPA is hosting a 60-day public comment period on the proposals.

After that, if finalized, affected companies will have 18 months to get into compliance with the new rules.

"Action definitely should have been taken before now, but hey, we can't change the past," Bates said.

The Shelby County Health Department also performed a cancer cluster study to see if people who live in areas of South Memphis have higher rates of cancer than in other parts of the city.

The study did not identify any clusters of cancers linked to EtO exposure in the area around the plant on Florida Street.

The department said more studies are underway.

The EPA along with the health department is hosting a public information webinar about the proposed standards at 7 p.m. May 1. To register, visit here.

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