Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin have filed a lawsuit against Sterigenics in state court. The Sterigenics lawsuit is demanding either a full shutdown of the controversial Willowbrook facility or the enforcement of more stringent limits on its emissions of a cancer-causing gas.
The GWC Law Firm has been retained by several parties who have lived or worked near the Sterigenics facility for a number of years and have developed cancers or other serious medical conditions that may be related to their exposure to ethylene oxide gas.
If you or a loved one believe that you may have been similarly affected, please contact GWC Law immediately for a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our attorneys. Our attorneys are available 24/7 to discuss your situation. Call (312) 464-1234 or click here to chat with one of our representatives now.
Sterigenics Lawsuit Cites “Violation of State Laws”
The 21-page Sterigenics lawsuit, filed in DuPage County Circuit Court on Oct. 30, 2018, argues that ethylene oxide, a carcinogenic gas released by the Sterigenics facility in Willowbrook, creates such a potential health hazard to the general public that the company is in violation of state laws.
The complaint from Madigan and Berlin draws upon laws and regulations that were enacted on the state level following the adoption of the Illinois Constitution in 1970. The Illinois Constitution features a clause establishing the right to a healthy environment and dictating that the state government has the responsibility to “maintain a healthful environment for the benefit of this and future generations.”
In a statement following the Sterigenics lawsuit, Madigan cited the constitutional mandate to remedy an immediate public health concern, while also calling for further legislative action to curb ethylene oxide emissions throughout the state.
“For too long, Sterigenics emitted a dangerous, toxic chemical into the air putting the public’s health at risk,” Madigan said. “In addition to filing our lawsuit, I urge the General Assembly to pass legislation to ban or greatly restrict the use of ethylene oxide in Illinois.”
“The issue of clean air is not negotiable,” Berlin added.
Observers noted that filing the Sterigenics lawsuit at the state level allowed Madigan and Berlin to bypass federal laws that have not been updated to take into account the dangers of exposure to ethylene oxide gas.
Sterigenics and Ethylene Oxide
The Sterigenics lawsuit includes extensive information about Sterigenics’ use of ethylene oxide to sterilize medical instruments, food, and pharmaceutical drugs. Drawing upon records obtained from the company, the suit notes that Sterigenics has released more than 254,000 pounds of the chemical into surrounding neighborhoods between 1993 and 2017. Until new pollution controls were installed in July, the facility had been releasing ethylene oxide from vents directly into the air since at least as early as 2006.
In late 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency determined that long-term exposure to ethylene oxide gas emissions may increase one’s risk of serious health problems, including breast cancer, leukemia, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Federal regulators typically target polluters when local cancer risks exceed 100 in a million. Based upon air samples collected in May 2018, analysts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that the cancer risks from breathing the Willowbrook facility’s ethylene oxide emissions were as much as 6,400 per million or more than six cases of cancer for every 1,000 people.
Additionally, a recent EPA report found that Willowbrook and its surrounding suburbs are among only a few dozen communities nationwide where excessive cancer risks are the result of toxic air pollution – with most of these cases stemming from exposure to ethylene oxide gas emissions.
More than 19,000 people live within approximately one mile of Sterigenics’ Willowbrook plant, with four schools and a day care center nearby.
Sterigenics maintains that the company is in compliance with state and federal regulations.
If you live or work near the Sterigenics facility in Willowbrook and believe that you have been exposed to the cancer-causing gas ethylene oxide, please contact GWC Law for a free consultation with one of our attorneys. Call us at (312) 464-1234 or click here to chat with one of our representatives at any time.