Earlier this month, Sterigenics announced that it would pay $408 million to settle hundreds of claims from victims who were diagnosed with cancer and other illnesses caused by ethylene oxide emissions from the company’s sterilization facility in Willowbrook, Illinois.
The new announcement brings closure to over 870 lawsuits that have been piling up against Sterigenics since 2018, when the EPA published research which found that people who lived near sterilization facilities developed cancer at rates nine times the national average.
Sterigenics’ Willowbrook plant was also the subject of a seal order issued by Illinois authorities in February 2019 that resulted in its closure and ultimate shutdown. The facility opened in 1984.
Settlement is Latest Development in Fight Against EtO Emissions
January’s settlement is the latest high-profile payout from Sterigenics in relation to EtO exposure and cancer claims. In September, a Cook County jury awarded $363 million to an Illinois woman who developed breast cancer after being exposed to ethylene oxide emissions from the Willowbrook plant, which primarily sterilizes medical devices. The woman had no family history of the disease and lived just several hundred yards away from the plant for over 30 years.
It’s also a major development in the ongoing fight to address the dangers posed by ethylene oxide, an antimicrobial pesticide which is used primarily to sterilize medical equipment, spices, and other items that can’t be sterilized with steam.
Over recent years, researchers from the EPA have compiled growing evidence that exposure to ethylene oxide in the air – and particularly air surrounding commercial sterilization facilities – poses severe health risks. In a 2020 Draft Risk Assessment, for example, the EPA stated that “inhaling Ethylene Oxide over many decades can cause cancer risks of concern.” This includes a greater likelihood of developing cancers such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, myeloma, leukemia, and breast cancer, as well as other health and neurological conditions.
According to the EPA, there were approximately 100 commercial sterilization facilities in operation in the U.S. as of July 2022.
More EtO Litigation on the Horizon
Recent cases, growing scientific evidence, and increasing regulatory actions from health agencies indicate that the latest Sterigenics settlement won’t be the last. In fact, residents living near commercial sterilization facilities operated by various companies across the country are now stepping forward to learn about their rights and legal options.
As a U.S. Best News “Best Law Firms” highly ranked trial practice, Levy Konigsberg has secured high-profile verdicts and settlements in some of the nation’s largest toxic exposure cases. Now, we’re focusing our efforts on helping victims harmed by EtO emissions learn more about their legal rights.
Learn more about ethylene oxide lawsuits and how our firm can help.
Levy Konigsberg is actively reviewing claims from victims and families who developed cancer and other health conditions after living near sterilization facilities that used ethylene oxide. To request a free consultation with one of our attorneys, call (800) 315-3806 or contact us online.