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STERILIZATION SERVICES OF TENNESSEE LAWSUITS

Ethylene Oxide (EtO) Exposure Lawsuits in South Memphis, TN

If you lived or worked near the Sterilization Services of Tennessee facility in Memphis, Tennessee and were diagnosed with cancer or another serious health condition, you may be entitled to compensation.

According to the Southern Environmental Law Center, Sterilization Services of Tennessee has endangered nearby homes, schools, and churches with dangerous levels of ethylene oxide (EtO) emissions from its plant in South Memphis, and has failed to take corrective actions to control emissions. The U.S. EPA has linked EtO emissions to elevated health risks, including elevated risks of blood cancer, breast cancer, and other adverse health effects.

Levy Konigsberg is an award-winning trial practice known for litigating some of the nation’s most complex toxic exposure cases. Now, we’re helping communities exposed to ethylene oxide emissions from sterilization facilities across the country. For a FREE consultation with one of our lawyers, call or contact us online.

Ethylene Oxide Emissions and Health Risks

Ethylene oxide (EtO) is an EPA-registered antimicrobial pesticide used to sterilize products that cannot be sterilized with steam, such as medical supplies, dental equipment, and spices.

While facilities like Sterilization Services of Tennessee in Memphis use EtO to treat roughly half of all medical equipment in the U.S., growing evidence of the link between EtO emissions and serious health risks have raised important questions about the dangers posed by commercial sterilizers.

In an EPA Draft Risk Assessment published in November 2020, for example, the agency found that “inhaling Ethylene Oxide over many decades can cause cancer risks of concern.” Some important other important findings include:

  • Long-term exposure to ethylene oxide has been associated with elevated risks of blood cancer (Hodgkin’s lymphoma, myeloma, and lymphocytic leukemia) and breast cancer.
  • Children are more vulnerable to EtO exposure than adults and are more likely to develop cancer later in life after early exposure.
  • Chronic exposure to ethylene oxide can cause neurological symptoms such as impaired coordination and memory loss.

Because ethylene oxide is most concerning when it is present in the air, sterilization facilities across the country have come under scrutiny for failures to control the dangerous emissions they release into nearby communities.

Many facilities have also been subject to civil lawsuits filed by residents who say they developed cancer and other serious health conditions after being exposed to harmful EtO emissions. These lawsuits seek financial compensation for victims’ damages, including medical expenses, pain and suffering, and more.

Learn more about EtO and ethylene oxide lawsuits.

Sterilization Services of Tennessee Identified As One of Country’s Most Dangerous EtO Polluters

Sterilization Services of Tennessee is a facility located at 2396 Florida Street in Memphis, Tennessee. It has been in operation since 1976 and, since at least 1979, has used ethylene oxide to sterilize various medical supplies and materials. The facility operates 24/7.

Like other commercial sterilizers, Sterilization Services of Tennessee has become subject to growing scrutiny about the health risks it poses to nearby residents. The facility has also been singled out for having some of the most dangerous emissions levels in the nation.

The dangers associated with EtO emissions from Sterilization Services of Tennessee have been chronicled in various studies, regulatory filings, and lawsuits. Some of these include:

  • In February 2023, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) sent a letter to the Shelby County Health Officer urging officials to use emergency powers to force Sterilization Services of Tennessee to reduce its dangerous EtO emissions or cease operations. The letter notes that the company’s continued refusal to act creates significant health and safety risks for nearby communities.
  • In February 2023, the Union of Concerned Scientists published a report about the dangers of EtO emissions from commercial sterilizers. The report included a case study on Sterilization Services of Tennessee, which is located within five miles of more than 130,000 people and 180 schools and childcare centers in a predominantly black community. It also found that the facility was in noncompliance with the Clean Air Act in one of the last 12 quarters and has been subject to two enforcement actions (resulting in nearly $10,000 in fines) in the past five years.
  • In July 2022, following a risk assessment of approximately 100 of the country’s commercial sterilizers currently in operation, the EPA identified the Sterilization Services of Tennessee facility as one of 23 commercial sterilizers with the most dangerous levels of EtO emissions resulting in elevated cancer risks for people living nearby.

Ethylene Oxide Emissions & Risks to Shelby County Residents

Given the findings of elevated EtO emissions at the Sterilization Services of Tennessee facility, the EPA has published data and information for residents who live in nearby communities in Shelby County / West Tennessee. The EPA also held a community meeting about ethylene oxide emissions from the facility and health risks in the affected community.

Some key facts noted by the EPA in its community meeting:

  • People who live and work near the Sterilization Services of Tennessee facility face an estimated lifetime cancer risk of 100 to 2,000/million.
  • Based on an analysis completed in July 2022, the EPA identified which specific communities face the greatest health risks due to EtO emissions from the Sterilization Services of Tennessee facility. This includes areas south of the facility to East Peebles Rd., north to South Parkway East, 250 west of the I-55 and Riverport Rd. intersection, and East to South Lauderdale Street. This map shows cancer risks associated with EtO emissions from the plant.
  • Infants, children, and those who work in or immediately near the facility may face the greatest health risks.
  • Most of the risk to the community comes from the facility’s fugitive emissions, which are unintentional emissions, leakages, or discharges.

In its community meeting, the EPA noted that it is working with the Shelby County Health Department and the state of Tennessee to reduce emissions at Sterilization Services of Tennessee. Its efforts include reviewing new controls and processes, examining new technologies, and backing rule changes to strengthen regulations for commercial sterilizers that use ethylene oxide.

As of July 2022, the Sterilization Services of Tennessee plant had no current plans for new controls. The Shelby County Health Department has announced that it is conducting a cancer risk assessment applicable to the community surrounding the Sterilization Services plant.

Levy Konigsberg: A Trusted Toxic Exposure Trial Firm

Levy Konigsberg is a nationally recognized trial practice known for taking on some of the country’s most complex cases, including litigation over the Flint, MI water crisis. Our work has led to landmark victories, record results, and precedent-setting rulings for clients and communities nationwide.

Reasons why we’re trusted to take on tough cases:

  • Results. We’ve recovered over $3 billion in compensation for clients and have handled some of the largest and most complex cases in the country.
  • Toxic Exposure Experience. Our firm is a leader in toxic exposure litigation, securing record results in cases involving lead contamination, asbestos, and other dangerous substances.
  • Award-Winning Trial Lawyers. Our team includes highly experienced and respected attorneys recognized by The Best Lawyers in America and Super Lawyers.

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