For more than three decades, Willowbrook residents have inhaled a cancer-causing chemical, ethylene oxide, that was being systematically emitted by the Sterigenics International industrial plant. Today, the attorneys of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C. are working closely with affected members of the community to seek the justice and compensation they deserve.
Our legal team has already filed multiple lawsuits in Illinois against the companies responsible for the toxic air pollution: Sterigenics International, LLC and its Chicago-based parent company, GTCR, LLC. The complaints allege that Sterigenics knowingly emitted ethylene oxide into the air since 1984 – without ever informing or warning the community about it. As a result, those who have lived, worked, or gone to school in the surrounding area during the past 34 years have been unknowingly breathing in the carcinogen. The Sterigenics lawsuits seek damages based on negligence, civil battery, public nuisances and other legal theories.
The attorneys of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C. are investigating additional claims as well. If you believe that you or a loved one has suffered cancer or other serious health problems caused by exposure to ethylene oxide in the Willowbrook area, contact us today for a free review of your case.
Ethylene Oxide Has Been Linked to Cancer
Ethylene oxide (EtO) is a flammable, colorless gas with a faint, ether-like odor. It is commonly used to make products such as antifreeze and to sterilize medical equipment, cosmetics and other items which cannot be sterilized by steam. However, despite its many uses, the chemical can be highly toxic.
In December 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) found a 30-fold increase in ethylene oxide’s “adult-based inhalation [cancer] risk.” The system changed its description of the chemical from “probably carcinogenic to humans” to “carcinogenic to humans.” The types of cancer associated with inhaling ethylene oxide are:
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
- Lymphocytic leukemia
- Breast cancer.
In addition to an increased cancer risk, exposure to ethylene oxide has been linked to:
- Eye, nose, and throat irritation
- Neurological disorders
- Breathing difficulty
- Reproductive problems (miscarriages)
- Birth defects.
Sterigenics Knowingly Emitted Ethylene Oxide in Willowbrook for 34 Years
Since 1984, Sterigenics has stored ethylene oxide at its Willowbrook plant in DuPage County and sprayed it into sealed chambers to sterilize medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, and food products. It is one of nine ethylene oxide sterilizers operated nationally by Sterigenics. The Willowbrook facility consists of two buildings located at:
- 7775 South Quincy Street (opened in 1984, with 15 gas chambers)
- 830 Midway Drive (opened in 1999, with four gas chambers).
According to the EPA, nearly 20,000 people live within one mile of the facility. Additionally, four schools, a day care center, a community park and a large shopping center are all located near the plant.
Reports: High Cancer Risk in Willowbrook from Ethylene Oxide Emissions
In August 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its updated National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA), which was based on air samples from 2014. The NATA is a screening tool that assesses the potential health risks, including cancer, which come from breathing hazardous air pollutants such as ethylene oxide. According to the EPA, if the cancer risk to an individual is no higher than 1 in 10,000 (or 100 in 1 million), the risk is “acceptable.”
In the updated NATA, the EPA determined that the census tract surrounding the Sterigenics facility in Willowbrook presented a cancer risk of roughly 281.8 in 1 million, or nearly three times the acceptable risk limit. The Willowbrook tract had the highest cancer risk score in Illinois, and it placed in the 99.9th percentile nationally in terms of cancer risk.
However, the NATA was based on 2014 air sampling data. Due to concerns about ethylene oxide emissions at the Sterigenics Willowbrook plant, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) conducted additional investigation and collected air samples from several areas surrounding the Sterigenics facility in May 2017.
In August 2018, the ATSDR issued a report about the testing. That report indicated that the cancer risk in Willowbrook was actually 6,400 in 1 million (or 64 in 10,000). In other words, the ATSDR determined that the cancer risk in the area was 64 times the acceptable risk limit.
If those samples represent typical concentrations of ethylene oxide in the air “an elevated cancer risk exists” for residents and off-site workers in the community, and it presents “a public health hazard to these populations,” the report concluded.
The EPA has since issued a statement indicating that it “recently discovered an issue with the way ethylene oxide has been measured,” which may mean that monitors “may have reported higher ambient levels of ethylene oxide than actually exist.” In November 2018, new air monitoring began around the Sterigenics facility. Regardless of the air monitoring issue, the EPA stated, the agency “would have been concerned about ethylene oxide in Willowbrook.”
Our Willowbrook Sterigenics Lawsuit Lawyers Can Help You
If you believe that you or a loved one has developed cancer or other health problems due to breathing ethylene oxide emitted by the Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook, the attorneys of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C. want to help you.
Our law firm believes that lawsuits are an important step in stopping wrongful conduct. We are aggressively seeking compensation not only for those who have been harmed by the ethylene oxide emissions in Willowbrook, but also those who may be harmed in the future as a result of Sterigenics’ pattern of conduct.
We can provide an immediate investigation of your case, consult with highly knowledgeable experts and help you to understand and explore your legal options. You can count on our attorneys to protect your rights and pursue all compensation you deserve, including:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Loss of wages and diminished future earning ability
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- All other related losses.
Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C. is a modern, cutting-edge personal injury law firm with a long record of obtaining positive results for clients in Chicago and throughout Illinois. Since our founding in 1982, we have secured more than $1.5 billion in verdicts and settlements on our clients’ behalf, including a $148 million verdict in August 2017 – the highest personal injury compensatory verdict in Illinois history. We are ready to put that experience to work for you. To discuss your case in a free consultation, call or reach us online today.