Cancers Caused by Sterilization Facility EtO Emissions

If you lived or worked near a sterilization facility or other industrial facility that used Ethylene Oxide (EtO) and have been diagnosed with cancer, you may be entitled to compensation.

According to the EPA, as many as 100 sterilization facilities in the U.S. may have exposed people living in nearby communities to dangerous levels of this carcinogenic chemical, which is commonly used to sterilize medical equipment and spices and manufacture other consumer products.

Now, victims who’ve been diagnosed with blood cancers, breast cancer, and other health conditions due to their exposure to harmful EtO emissions are fighting back against the responsible companies. If you believe you might have a case, our award-winning attorneys at Levy Konigsberg want to help.

What is Ethylene Oxide?

Ethylene Oxide (EtO) is a colorless, flammable, and typically odorous chemical used in both commercial manufacturing and sterilization. Its primary uses include:

  1. Sterilizing medical equipment, spices, and other items that can’t be sterilized by steam.
  2. Manufacturing other chemicals and products, including plastic bottles and antifreeze.

As an EPA-registered antimicrobial pesticide, EtO is used to treat roughly half of all medical devices in the U.S. annually. But while EtO may serve a useful function in sterilizing medical products, companies must take reasonable steps to avoid exposing workers and community residents to harmful, cancer-causing EtO emissions.

EPA Analysis: Ethylene Oxide Exposure Can Cause Cancer

In November 2020, the EPA released a Draft Risk Assessment as part of an Ethylene Oxide registration review, a process in which registered pesticides are reviewed every 15 years to evaluate how they perform their intended function in comparison to risks they pose to human health and the environment.

In its Draft Risk Assessment, the EPA found that “inhaling Ethylene Oxide over many decades can cause cancer risks of concern.” Some other notable findings, according to the EPA, include:

  • Long-term exposure to EtO is known to cause cancers of the white blood cells (such as non as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, myeloma, and lymphocytic leukemia), and may cause breast cancer.
  • Children are believed to be more susceptible to EtO than adults, with children exposed to EtO being more likely to develop cancer later in life.
  • Chronic EtO exposure can also cause neurological symptoms including memory loss and impaired hand-eye coordination.

In its Draft Risk Assessment, the EPA noted that there is no concern for risks of exposure from products used, made, or sterilized with EtO (such as spices or plastic bottles), nor from exposure to soil or water.

The primary concern, therefore, is the presence of EtO in the air – particularly in air surrounding commercial facilities that use EtO to sterilize medical equipment and other products.

U.S. Sterilization Facilities with Dangerous Ethylene Oxide Emissions

In July 2022, the EPA conducted a risk assessment for communities near the approximately 100 commercial sterilization facilities currently operating in the U.S., focusing on the cancer risks associated with breathing EtO-contaminated area over the course of a lifetime.

Based on results of the assessment, the EPA identified 23 sterilization facilities with EtO emissions contributing to an excess risk of cancer among people living near these facilities. The EPA described this excess cancer risk as an “elevated cancer risk at or above 100 additional cancer cases per million people exposed.”

These are the locations and sterilization facilities associated with the highest EtO exposure risks for people who live nearby:

  1. Lakewood, CO: Terumo BCT Sterilization Service, Inc.
  2. Groveland, FL: International Sterilization Laboratory
  3. Taunton, MA: Professional Contract Sterilization, Inc. (PCS)
  4. Hanover, MD: Elite Spice, Inc.
  5. Jessup, MD: Elite Spice, Inc.
  6. Salisbury, MD: Trinity Sterile, Inc.
  7. Jackson, MO: Midwest Sterilization Corporation
  8. Columbus, NE: Becton Dickinson Pharmaceutical Systems
  9. Franklin, NJ: Cosmed Group Inc. (dba Cosmed of NJ)
  10. Linden, NJ: ETO Sterilization-Plant #2 (Cosmed)
  11. Ardmore, OK: LEMCO Ardmore
  12. Erie, PA: Cosmed Group LLC/Erie
  13. Zelienople, PA: American Contract Systems Inc.
  14. Añasco, PR: Edwards Lifesciences
  15. Farjado, PR: Customed, Inc.
  16. Salinas, PR: Steri-Tech, Inc.
  17. Villalba, PR: Medtronic PR Operation Co.
  18. New Tazewell, TN: DeRoyal Industries
  19. Memphis, TN: Sterilization Services
  20. Athens, TX: Steritec, Inc.
  21. Laredo, TX: Midwest Sterilization Corporation
  22. Sandy, UT: BD Medical
  23. Henrico, VA: Sterilization Services of Virginia

The EPA has made a full list of all Ethylene Oxide commercial sterilization facilities in the U.S. available on its website. This list includes nearly 100 facilities located in 32 states across the country, as well as in Puerto Rico. Several companies operate facilities in more than one location. For example, these companies are associated with multiple sterilization facilities on the EPA list:

  • Sterigenics (7 facilities)
  • American Contract Systems (2 facilities)
  • Becton Dickinson (3 facilities)
  • Steris (5 facilities)
  • Medtronic (5 facilities)
  • Jackson Laboratory (3 facilities)
  • St. Jude Medical (2 facilities)
  • Elite Spice (3 facilities)
  • Midwest Sterlization (2 facilities)
  • Cosmed Group (3 facilities)
  • Boston Scientific (3 facilities)
  • 3M (2 facilities)
  • Sterilization Services (2 facilities)
  • Isomedix Operations (3 facilities)

Lawsuits, Regulatory Actions Highlight Dangers of EtO Pollution

Many sterilization facilities identified by the EPA’s risk assessment have faced high-profile regulatory and civil cases related to their use of Ethylene Oxide and its impact on human health and the environment. This includes sterilization facilities that have been charged with regulatory violations, facilities that were shut down due to EtO emissions, and facilities sued in individual cancer lawsuits.

Here are some examples:

Facilities with regulatory cases:

  • In 2005, Cosmed agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle allegations that it violated the Clean Air Act by failing to measure EtO emissions, failing to submit required reports to the EPA, and failing to timely install pollution control equipment at facilities in Baltimore, MD, Grand Prairie, TX, San Diego, CA, Coventry, RI, South Plainfield, NJ, and Waukegan, IL from at least 1998 to 2003.

Facilities that have shut down due to EtO emissions, as reported by the FDA:

  • In January 2020, the FDA reported that Medline Industries’ sterilization facility in Waukegan voluntarily stopped operations in December 2019 to finish construction on emissions reduction equipment and bring the facility into compliance with new EtO standards approved in Illinois.
  • In October 2019, the FDA reported that the Georgia State Attorney General had taken action to request the potential closure of the Becton Dickinson and Company (BD) medical device sterilization facility in Covington, GA.
  • In October 2019, the FDA reported that the Sterigenics sterilization facility in Willowbrook, IL announced it would not reopen after closing in February 2019.
  • In September 2019, the FDA reported on the temporary closure (as of August 2019) of another Sterigenics facility in Atlanta, GA for the purpose of construction to reduce EtO emissions.
  • In March 2019, the FDA reported on a Seal Order issued by the Illinois EPA to stop the Sterigenics facility in Willowbrook from using EtO in its sterilization of medical and consumer products. The same month, the FDA reported that a Viant sterilization facility in Grand Rapids, MI announced it would be closing later in the year.

Facilities that have faced civil lawsuits and other high-profile actions over Ethylene Oxide emissions:

  • Sterigenics, Willowbrook, IL. In September 2022, a Cook County jury awarded $363 million in damages to a woman who developed breast cancer after having lived near the Sterigenics sterilization facility in Willowbrook. More than 700 victims have filed suit against Sterigenics over exposure to EtO from this same facility. The lawsuits were filed after an EPA report found that people living within 1.5 miles of the plant were 10x more likely to develop cancer due to the Ethylene Oxide used at the facility.
  • B.Braun Med Inc, Allentown, PA. In February 2022, nearly three dozen people filed suit against the B.Braun sterilization plant in Allentown over claims that they developed leukemia and other cancers after working at or living near the facility.
  • KPR (Kendall Patient Recovery), Augusta, GA. In 2021,over two dozen people sued the KPR sterilization plant in Augusta, Georgia over cancers and miscarriages they claim resulted from living or working within 5 miles of the plant.
  • BD (Benton Dickinson) and Sterigenics, Georgia. In 2020, a series of lawsuits were filed against BD in Covington and Sterigenics in Cobb County by plaintiffs who claimed they developed breast or blood cancers due to EtO emissions from the sterilization plants.
  • Baxter International, Arkansas. In 2021, Baxter Healthcare Corp reached a confidential settlement with plaintiffs who claimed they were harmed by EtO emissions from the company’s sterilization facility in Mountain Home, AR, which reported the third-highest emissions of the chemical in 2020.
  • Sterigenics, Vernon, CA. in August 2022, the Los Angeles County Supervisor and other officials called for the shutdown of a Sterigenics plant in Vernon, Ca after the facility was labeled “high risk” by the South Coast Air Quality Management District over its EtO emissions.
  • Terumo BCT Facility, Lakewood, CO. As of 2022, at least a dozen lawsuits have been filed against the Terumo BCT sterilization facility in Lakewood, Colorado over its EtO emissions. A twelve-plaintiff trial against Terumo BCT is scheduled for July 2023.
  • Sterigenics, Santa Teresa, NM. In January 2021, the New Mexico Attorney General filed suit against Sterigenics over claims that EtO emissions from its Santa Teresa facility increased the risk of cancer among local residents.

What Types of Cancers Does EtO Cause?

According to the EPA, breathing Ethylene Oxide over the course of many years can increase a person’s risk of developing various types of cancers, including:

  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Myeloma
  • Lymphocytic leukemia
  • Other blood and lymph cancers
  • Breast cancer
  • Cancers of the prostate, pancreas, kidneys, lung, brain, stomach, ovaries, and bladder

Other health effects associated with exposure to Ethylene Oxide may include:

  • Headaches and nausea
  • Memory loss and impaired hand-eye coordination
  • Cognitive and neurological impairment
  • Miscarriage and reproductive harm
  • Eye damage
  • Nerve damage

What’s Being Done About EtO Exposure and Emissions?

Although research on Ethylene Oxide and its impact on humans and the environment is continuing, it has already been recognized as a carcinogen. As such, U.S. regulators have already made several findings of importance. For example:

  • In 2016, the EPA discovered that EtO is more dangerous when people breathe it in.
  • In 2018, an initial analysis from EPA scientists revealed that EtO is likely causing cancer in people near certain types of facilities.
  • In July 2022, the EPA identified specific communities and sterilization facilities that pose the highest cancer risks for nearby residents.

As the EPA and other regulatory agencies have learned more about the dangers of EtO exposure, new regulations and reporting programs are being implemented in an attempt to reduce emissions from sterilization facilities. Additionally, regulators and scientists are exploring alternative sterilizing methods for products such as medical devices. These efforts are supplemented by a growing number of civil lawsuits being filed by victims. Unfortunately, there is disturbing evidence that many of the owners and operators of sterilizations facilities using EtO failed to take reasonable steps to minimize exposure to this dangerous carcinogens to their workers and surrounding neighborhood residents.

Am I Able to File a Lawsuit Over Ethylene Oxide Exposure?

Whether you have grounds to pursue an Ethylene Oxide lawsuit will depend on your specific circumstances. You may have a potential claim if:

  1. You worked or lived near a sterilization facility or other industrial facility that used Ethylene Oxide; and
  2. You were diagnosed with cancer or another health condition associated with EtO exposure.

Our award-winning trial lawyers at Levy Konigsberg have decades of experience representing children and adults in high-profile toxic exposure cases. The firm is nationally known for its success in high-profile cases including its representation of thousands of plaintiffs in the Flint Water Crisis Litigation that resulted in a settlement of over $600 million with the State of Michigan. We’re available to speak with you personally about your situation and discuss whether you may be eligible to pursue a lawsuit during a FREE consultation.

How Much is an Ethylene Oxide Lawsuit Worth?

That depends entirely on the facts of your case and the nature of your damages. As civil claims, Ethylene Oxide lawsuits are brought against sterilization facilities and other entities responsible for EtO emissions that harm victims. When claims are successful, victims may be able to recover compensation for losses caused by their exposure and resulting health conditions. This may include:

  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Medical bills and future medical expenses
  • Lost income, lost future earnings, and lost financial support
  • Grief, anguish, and emotional losses
  • Other economic and non-economic damages

Because cancers and other health conditions associated with EtO exposure can radically change the lives of victims and families, our team at Levy Konigsberg is intent on helping clients pursue the maximum compensation possible. We can discuss the potential value of your case during a consultation.

Free Consultation with an Ethylene Oxide Lawyer: (800) 315-3806

As a growing number of victims across the country are beginning to file Ethylene Oxide lawsuits against sterilization facilities and other entities responsible for harmful EtO emissions, Levy Konigsberg is actively tracking the latest legal developments, working on claims, and reviewing potential cases for individuals and families nationwide.

As a U.S. News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” ranked product liability and personal injury practice, we’re known for handling highly complex claims and fighting zealously on behalf of victims and families who deserve justice. If you have questions about your rights and options, our Ethylene Oxide exposure attorneys are here to help.

Levy Konigsberg: A Nationwide Trial Practice

Levy Konigsberg is a nationally recognized trial practice known for taking on some of the most complex and consequential cases in the country. Our work has led to landmark victories, record results, and precedent-setting rulings for clients and communities nationwide.

Reasons why we’re trusted by clients and colleagues:

  • 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.

Levy Konigsberg is actively investigating Ethylene Oxide lawsuits from victims who developed cancer after living or working near sterilization facilities across the country. To request a FREE consultation, call (800) 315-3806 or contact us online.


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