Ethylene Oxide Exposure

Hundreds of thousands of Americans with prolonged exposure to ethylene oxide gas from industrial plants near their homes and/or businesses may be at risk for cancer and/or certain blood disorders. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, breast cancer or another serious illness after being exposed to ethylene oxide in the air at your home or at work, you may be able to hold the company responsible for the ethylene oxide emissions liable for damages. Contact an experienced ethylene oxide exposure attorney today to discuss your options for legal recourse.

Ethylene Oxide Lawsuits

Ethylene Oxide Exposure Lawsuit Information

Over the past several years, thousands of lawsuits have been filed against corporations accused of freely venting ethylene oxide gas into the atmosphere during chemical manufacturing or medical device sterilization processes. In December 2019, 22 new lawsuits were filed against Sterigenics over the industrial sterilization company’s use of ethylene oxide gas to sterilize medical devices for more than 30 years at its facility in Willowbrook, Illinois. That same month, six former teachers filed a lawsuit against Sterigenics, claiming that exposure to ethylene oxide emissions from the company’s Willowbrook sterilization plant, located less than a mile from their school, caused them to develop cancer. Of the six plaintiffs, five were diagnosed with breast cancer and the sixth was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Sterigenics is far from the only corporation under fire for allowing dangerous ethylene oxide emissions to contaminate densely populated areas full of houses, parks, schools, businesses and children. Well-known companies like C.R. Bard, Bayer and Dow Chemical also face a growing number of lawsuits filed by plaintiffs who were exposed to potentially cancer-causing ethylene oxide emissions. The lawsuits all involve similar allegations that the companies knew about the harmful effects of chronic ethylene oxide inhalation yet failed to prevent emissions or warn nearby communities, schools, childcare facilities or businesses about the potential health risks of ethylene oxide exposure.

Possible Side Effects of Ethylene Oxide Exposure

  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Breast cancer
  • Blood disorders
  • Leukemia
  • Kidney cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Brain tumors
  • Stomach cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Uterine cancer
  • Testicular damage
  • Kidney damage

“In 2016, EPA’s IRIS classified ethylene oxide as “‘carcinogenic to humans’ by the inhalation route of exposure.” More than 100 communities across the United States are exposed to ethylene oxide concentrations above the level IRIS deems safe.”

What is Ethylene Oxide?

Ethylene oxide is an industrial chemical commonly used in the sterilization of medical equipment and in the manufacture of other chemical compounds. The gas is colorless and odorless and hundreds of thousands of Americans living and working near or in industrial plants that use ethylene oxide have been breathing it in for decades, unaware that exposure to it can cause serious medical problems. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified ethylene oxide as carcinogenic to humans and people who live or work near these plants run the risk of chronic exposure via inhalation. The risk of serious side effects from ethylene oxide is reportedly highest with exposure to high concentrations of the gas over long periods of time. Unfortunately, ethylene oxide can remain in the atmosphere for months, contaminating everyone who breathes it in.

Affected U.S. Cities

Based on public data, the following are cities that may be affected by ethylene oxide emissions and the corporations responsible for the alleged contamination:

  • Lakewood, CO – Terumo BCT, Inc.
  • New Castle, DE – Croda International
  • Covington, GA – C.R. Bard
  • Smyrna, GA – Sterigenics
  • Willowbrook, IL – Sterigenics
  • Waukegan, IL – Medline Industries
  • Hahnville, LA – Union Carbide
  • Plaquemines, LA – Dow Chemical
  • Plaquemines, LA – INEOS Oxide Company/Axiall Corporation
  • Gabriel, LA – Taminco/Eastman
  • Jackson, MO – Midwest Sterilization Corporation
  • Washington, NJ – BASF
  • Santa Theresa, NM – Sterigenics
  • Lehigh, PA – B Braun Medical Inc.
  • Añasco, PR – Edwards Lifesciences
  • Pasadena, TX – Arkema Inc.
  • Pasadena, TX – LyondellBasell Industries
  • Pasadena, TX – Baker Hughes
  • Pasadena, TX – Carpenter Chemical
  • Port Neches, TX – TPC Group
  • Institute, WV – Union Carbide
  • Charleston, WV – Union Carbide
  • Charleston, WV – Bayer

History of Ethylene Oxide

Ethylene oxide was first discovered more than 160 years ago and signs of health risks from exposure to the gas date back 70 years. The first study to establish a potential link between ethylene oxide and cancer was published in 1948, and in it, researchers found that ethylene oxide is a mutagen. That means when the gas is inhaled, it can alter genetic material in cells, possibly making the cells cancerous. Despite this finding, ethylene oxide became a common sterilizer of medical instruments in the 1950s and is still used for this purpose at industrial plants across the country. For decades, dozens of industrial plants run by Sterigenics and other corporations, many of which were in close proximity to residential neighborhoods. freely vented ethylene oxide gas into the atmosphere.

The potential health risks associated with exposure to ethylene oxide emissions are well documented. After studying more than 18,000 workers at 17 sterilization plants from 2003 to 2004, researchers from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health reported that ethylene oxide exposure causes breast cancer and lymphomas. In 2006, the EPA confirmed this finding, concluding that “Evidence in humans indicates that exposure to ethylene oxide increases the risk of lymphoid cancer and, for females, breast cancer.” In fact, in 2019, EPA officials reported that ethylene oxide emissions from the Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook, Illinois were responsible for long-term cancer risks up to 10 times higher than what the agency considers acceptable.

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