The ethylene oxide lawsuit claims that exposure to EtO toxic gas emissions causes cancer and blood disorders. The EPA considers EtO to be a human carcinogen, something that defendants in these lawsuits knew or should have known and yet failed to warn the public.
Our lawyers are representing people who suffered exposure to ethylene oxide from a manufacturing plant or facility in their community. We are fighting to recover damages from this exposure on behalf of our clients.
What Is an Ethylene Oxide Lawsuit?
People across the United States have filed lawsuits against corporations that operate ethylene-oxide-emitting facilities.
According to the lawsuits, the companies named as defendants operated their facilities without sufficient pollution controls necessary to limit or eliminate toxic EtO emissions. This failure exposed thousands of people on a daily basis to elevated levels of ethylene oxide for multiple years—in some cases, for over a decade.
As a result of the exposure, these individuals suffered an increased risk of developing cancer. In addition to this risk, the emissions from the chemical plants interfered with the plaintiffs’ use and enjoyment of their land, caused physical discomfort, and drove down property values.
Such lawsuits have further alleged that defendants knew or should have known of the health risks created through EtO emissions and yet failed to warn the people who worked and lived in and around the area of these risks.
Settlements and Verdicts in Ethylene Oxide Lawsuits
Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against companies with facilities that emit ethylene oxide.
$363 Million in Sterigenics EtO lawsuit verdict
In September 2022, a Cook County jury ordered Sterigenics, as well as parent company Sotera Health and its corporate predecessor Griffith Foods, to pay $363 million ($38 million in compensatory damages and $325 million in punitive damages) after exposing a Willowbrook, Illinois, woman to dangerous levels of the carcinogen ethylene oxide gas.
In the lawsuit against Sterigenics for their ethylene oxide emissions, the company allegedly released the toxic gas from a facility from 1985 to 2019. As a result of this exposure, Sue Kamuda, a resident who lived near the plant, developed breast cancer. Her son developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Bloomberg Law reports that the Willowbrook census tract was in the 99th percentile for cancer risk in the county.
Thousands of residents of Willowbrook, Illinois, suffered exposure to EtO from Sterigenics’ medical tool sterilization facility. After the EPA revealed in 2018 that people living near the plant developed cancer at rates nine times above the national average, more than 700 other individuals have filed lawsuits against the companies.
More Lawsuits to Come
The U.S. is home to more than 90 facilities that work with ethylene oxide. The compound is widely used in the manufacturing of household cleaners, personal care items, and fabrics, as well as in the sterilization of medical equipment used in hospitals and doctors’ offices, according to the American Chemistry Council.
Given the extent to which EtO is used in the U.S., it is likely that many more lawsuits will be filed by people who lived or worked near such facilities, suffered exposure to the toxic chemical, and developed cancer as a result.
For Decades, Research has Linked EtO to Cancer
The scientific community has been studying the DNA-damaging properties of ethylene oxide since the 1940s. Over the decades, scientists have broadened their understanding of the health risks of this toxic gas.
- 1977: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) stated that increased mutation frequency in humans could result from occupational exposure to EtO.
- 1981: NIOSH recommended the gas be considered a potential occupational carcinogen.
- 1987: The International Agency for Research on Cancer used evidence from animal and human studies to classify EtO as a Group 1 (definite) human carcinogen. California also classified the chemical as a definite human carcinogen.
- 1994: The World Health Organization listed ethylene oxide as a Group 1 human carcinogen
- 2000: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services classified ethylene oxide as “known to be a human carcinogen.”
- 2007: The Scientific Advisory Board labeled EtO as “carcinogenic to humans.”
- 2016: The EPA discovered “strong evidence of an increased risk of cancer of the lymphohematopoietic system and of breast cancer in females” in humans employed in EtO-manufacturing facilities and sterilizing facilities.
Despite knowing about the hazards linked to EtO, some manufacturers have failed to warn residents in the surrounding areas about these risks.
Detecting Illness From Exposure to Ethylene Oxide Through Medical Monitoring
The increased risk of contracting cancer and other serious latent diseases from an ethylene oxide facility requires that people who have been exposed to its EtO emissions undergo periodic medical examinations.
The monitoring procedures will enable early detection and diagnosis of cancer, as well as the progression of biomarker abnormalities. Testing also needs to be done to determine whether individuals have been exposed to ethylene oxide.
According to NIOSH, anyone exposed to EtO should have access to medical surveillance programs that evaluate “both the acute and chronic effects of EtO exposure.” Signs of acute exposure that could signal unacceptable acute exposure include:
- Upper respiratory irritation
- Other signs of irritation
NIOSH further requires surveillance and annual updating of reproductive history, as well as the examination of “hematological, neurological, and reproductive systems.”
Recoverable Damages in an Ethylene Oxide Lawsuit
Recoverable damages in EtO lawsuits include the following:
- Diagnostic testing for early detection of cancer
- Costs of medical monitoring
- Cancer treatment costs
- Costs of managing cases of diagnosed cancer
- Rehabilitation costs
- Lost income
- Diminished enjoyment of life
- Pain and suffering damages
- Loss of a loved one
An ethylene oxide lawyer can talk to you about the specifics of your case and inform you of your legal options for recovering damages from exposure to EtO.
How Are People Exposed to EtO?
The EPA reports that the most common means of exposure to ethylene oxide is by breathing air that contains the industrial chemical.
Exposure to such contaminated air can happen:
In the workplace where ethylene oxide is either made or used, such as factories, hospitals, or commercial sterilizers
In residential areas close to plants that emit EtO
From tobacco smoke
According to a 2014 National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA), the tract of land surrounding one studied facility contained high concentrations of ethylene oxide.
How Is Risk From EtO Determined?
In a public meeting about Ethylene oxide from one EtO facility, EPA spokespeople stated that the health risk to individuals in the area depends on three factors:
- The individual’s proximity to the BCT facility
- The amount of EtO being emitted from the plant
- The duration of exposure, in terms of number of years and number of hours per day
The EPA further stated that workers are likely to be exposed at higher levels. Individuals who have lived near an EtO-releasing facility all their lives suffer the greatest risk from ethylene oxide exposure. Children and infants suffer a higher risk of health effects from EtO exposure, due to their DNA being more susceptible to change.
What Types of Injuries Result From Ethylene Oxide Emissions?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers EtO to be a known human carcinogen for those who endure inhalation exposure to the industrial chemical in high concentrations and over long periods of time.
According to the EPA, exposure to the industrial chemical presents multiple health hazards of varying degrees.
Acute effects from EtO exposure
- Neurological disorders
- Pulmonary edema
Noncancerous chronic effects from EtO exposure
- Irritation of eyes, skin, and respiratory passages
- Memory loss
Reproductive and Developmental effects of EtO inhalation
- Miscarriages in females
Cancer risk of EtO exposure
- Lymphoid cancer
- Breast cancer
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Lymphocytic leukemia
- Pancreatic cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Lung cancer
- Uterine cancer
The toxic chemical has also been linked to brain tumors, blood disorders, and testicular damage. The substance is also mutagenic, which means it can damage DNA.
What Is Ethylene Oxide?
Ethylene oxide is a colorless, flammable, and usually odorless gas that can survive in the atmosphere for at least 69 days and accumulates in humans, according to the EPA. These characteristics increase the chances of individuals breathing in the chemical without knowing it and without being aware of its health risks.
This toxic gas can be used in the manufacturing of a wide variety of products, such as plastics, adhesives, antifreeze, detergents, and textiles. EtO is also extremely popular for the sterilization of medical devices because it does not damage the devices while sterilizing them.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports that around 50% of medical devices that require sterilization—around 20 billion per year—are sterilized with EtO. This includes devices that cannot be sterilized by steam. Plastic or resin medical devices, or those made of glass or metal, or which contain several layers of packaging or difficult-to-access places are commonly sterilized with ethylene oxide. Because of the chemical’s link to a heightened risk of cancer, the EPA regulates sterilization facilities that emit ethylene oxide.
Let Our Lawyers Help You if EtO Emissions Caused Your Cancer
Although the EPA is tackling new rules to regulate EtO emissions, people who have lived in communities around ethylene oxide-producing facilities may have already suffered the dangerous health effects of the carcinogen.
If you have developed cancer after being exposed to ethylene oxide, a law firm that handles toxic air claims could pursue compensation on your behalf.
Since 1955, our law firm has been fighting major corporations whose negligence caused people to suffer injury. We work on contingency, meaning if we do not recover, we do not charge you legal fees. Our history of results includes more than 150 jury verdicts in the amount of $1 million or more, as well as verdicts and settlements in excess of $30 billion.
Our law firm was one of six that exposed the dangers of DuPont’s chemical C8, leading to a $670 million settlement for those who suffered injury from C8 being dumped into the Ohio River and the air in West Virginia.
We are the founders of Mass Torts Made Perfect, a national seminar where thousands of attorneys go to learn from our law firm’s attorneys how to handle cases against the world’s largest corporations.
To contact us for a free case evaluation, you can call us at (800) 277-1193. You also can request an evaluation by clicking Free & Confidential Ethylene Oxide Evaluation Form. This form will be immediately reviewed by one of our attorneys handling the Ethylene Oxide lawsuits.
News Articles About Ethylene Oxide Cancer Lawsuits
EPA Faces Lawsuit As Inaction Exposes Millions to Carcinogenic Ethylene Oxide Every Day (September 20, 2022)
Jury Awards $363M Verdict in Sterigenics Trial Over Toxic Gas Emissions (September 19, 2022)
Ethylene Oxide Litigation Update (December 8, 2021)
Sterigenics to Pay $363 Million for Cancer Caused by Emissions (September 19, 2022)
Lawsuits filed against medical supply sterilization plant linked to increased cancer rates (August 20, 2019)
Video About Toxic EtO Emissions
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Does Ethylene Oxide Cause Cancer?
A. Yes, the EPA specifies that ethylene oxide is a human carcinogen, meaning it causes cancer in humans. According to scientific research, long-term exposure to this chemical increases your chance of developing cancers of the white blood cells. This includes non-Hodgkin lymphoma, myeloma, and lymphocytic leukemia. Exposure to EtO over many years also increases the risk of breast cancer in women.
Q. What Is Ethylene Oxide?
A. Ethylene oxide (EtO) is a colorless, typically odorless gas that the EPA and the IARC have classified as a carcinogen. It is often used to make other chemicals, as well as a variety of consumer and industrial goods. The gas is also used to sterilize medical devices when steam cannot be used.
Q. Who are the defendants in the Lakewood, Colorado, EtO Lawsuits?
A. The lawsuit was filed against Terumo BCT and parent company Terumo Medical Corporation, which opened an ethylene oxide facility in Lakewood, Colorado, knowing the health hazards of the emissions, and still failing to warn residents in the area.
Q. What types of damages can I recover from this lawsuit?
A. If you developed cancer after long-term exposure to EtO emissions from the BCT facility, you could receive compensation to cover the costs of medical surveillance, medical treatment, recovery, lost wages, diminished quality of life, and loss of a loved one, if a family members passed away from health complications arising from such exposure.