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Articles Posted in Environmental Contamination

From pandemic under-preparedness to environmental deregulation, Donald Trump’s federal government is out of the business of protecting lives and health.

coronavirus-4957673_1920-1-1024x683As I write this, more than 55,000 Americans have tested positive for COVID-19.  More than 800 of them have died.  More than 200 died yesterday.  In many parts of the country, the number of detected infections, and death, are doubling every 3 days.  By this weekend, more than 100,000 will have tested positive.  Likely more than 1,500 will have died.  The rampage of this virus is on a frightening trajectory; we are likely to see days in the month of April where 500 or more, perhaps even 1000, Americans die in a single day.

Unmoved by the carnage mounting all around him, Donald Trump now enlists Americans to “pack the churches” for Easter in 18 days, in the craven hope that they will literally risk their lives in massive congregation, all to provide the photo op he believes will bolster his chances at re-election.  Most scientists predict that COVID-19 will be at its most savage right about that time.

trump-2546104_1920-1The Trump administration’s “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science” rule will severely limit the scientific studies used by the federal government to create new regulations. Environmental attorney Shawn Collins says the rule requires data to be publicly available, including confidential medical records and sensitive personal information and will be a major impediment for clean air and water rules. Continue reading…

 

nature-3374583_1920-300x199Not only has President Trump failed to clean up any swamps in Washington or elsewhere, but his new budget—if passed—will ensure that there are toxic swamps all over the country.

Trump’s new budget slashes the EPA’s budget by 26%, at the same time as his toadies at the agency cynically claim that the EPA will focus on its “core mission—providing Americans with clean air, clean water and ensuring chemical safety”. That’s a bald-faced lie. It’s impossible for the EPA to guarantee that with 26% less staff and $2.4 billion less in funding—the cuts proposed by Trump.

The most telling piece of the president’s budget is the cut to the EPA’s Superfund program. Trump’s disdain for people suffering from toxic pollution is evident in his proposed 10% cut of a program that currently has the longest backlog of toxic waste cleanup in 15 years. For lack of enough Superfund money, children are being exposed to the nastiest, most carcinogenic, toxic chemicals in their air and water while waiting for the government to clean up their neighborhoods and towns. If Trump actually cared about people—or clean air and water for that matter– he would beef up this program instead of letting regular folks twist in the wind.

Shawn-3-Copy-300x177Yesterday, lawyers for the plaintiffs in the cases against Sterigenics held a press conference to expose what we have recently learned about the apparent attempts of Sterigenics and its corporate owners to make it more difficult for our clients who prove their cases to receive just compensation.  As we detail in our newest court filing (and as summarized below), in the two years since the federal government in 2016 concluded that ethylene oxide is 30 times more potent of a carcinogen than previously believed, Sterigenics and its owners have taken $1.3 billion in cash out of the company, put it in their own pockets, and replaced it with money borrowed from banks.  The effect of this is to put company cash and other assets out of reach of plaintiffs who prove that Sterigenics caused their cancers.

Rest assured:  we will expose this behavior; get to the bottom of it; and hold Sterigenics accountable in court for anything they have done here that is unlawful.  We will bring this behavior before the Judge and jury, and demand justice—which includes just compensation for our clients who prove their cases.

This past Friday, we filed an amended complaint adding new allegations to our lawsuits. The new allegations are as follows:

CBS-Hinsdale-storyThe Collins Law Firm has filed a lawsuit on behalf of six former teachers at Hinsdale South High School who have been stricken with cancer. The lawsuit claims that the teachers’ cancer was caused by their exposure to Sterigenics’ ethylene oxide during the time they worked at Hinsdale South. Moreover, attorney Shawn Collins, claims that Sterigenics knew that their emissions could cause health risks to neighbors before they began operating. For coverage of the national news story on CBS, click on the link below:

https://www.cbsnews.com/video/illinois-sterilizing-plant-caused-cancer-lawsuit-claims/

 

 

smog-219x300In the summer of 2008, the Chinese city of Beijing hosted the Olympic Games. The event has frequently been called the most polluted Olympics ever and many remember seeing the images of Beijing skyscrapers barely visible through a thick layer of hazy smog. What many Americans may not know, however, is that the same type of air pollution from Particulate Matter emissions has been linked to the premature deaths of many women and men right here in the United States.

According to a study published this year, more than 30,000 deaths in the United States in a single year may have been caused by exposure to Particulate Matter air pollution. The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS Medicine, examined deaths in 2015 to determine how many could be attributed to exposure to Particulate Matter air pollution. Researchers estimated that Particulate Matter pollution was responsible for the deaths of 15,612 women and 14,757 men in 2015 alone. The risk of premature death was greater in areas with lower income and higher poverty rates than in wealthier counties. Communities of color and communities where fewer residents had completed a high school education were also at greater risk.

What is Particulate Matter?

breast-cancer-1-3-300x215October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual health campaign that raises awareness and support for the 1 in 8 women in the United States that will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Bringing awareness to this disease is important because breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide. Sadly, on average a woman in the United States is diagnosed with breast cancer every 2 minutes. Breast cancer also impacts men, though it is rare.

Breast cancer treatment and chances for survival can vary greatly depending on the type of breast cancer and when it is diagnosed. As the more than 3.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States today are well-aware, treatment may include surgery to remove the cancer (lumpectomy), to remove lymph nodes, or even to remove the breast entirely (mastectomy). Breast cancer treatment also frequently involves some combination of radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy drug therapy, and immunotherapy.

Although death rates have decreased since 1989, nearly 42,000 women in the United States are expected to die in 2019 from breast cancer. The decrease in death rates is believed to be the result of advances in treatment and research, earlier detection through screening, and increased awareness of the disease and its risk factors.

ethylene-oxide-300x208“The announcement that Sterigenics has decided not to reopen its Willowbrook facility, while a victory for the people fighting Sterigenics’ unsafe ethylene oxide emissions, is also a sad reminder that it should never have been allowed to operate there in the first place. For years, Sterigenics spewed its cancer-causing chemical into a neighborhood filled with schoolchildren, teachers, moms and dads who had no idea they were ever in danger. Dozens of lawsuits filed against the company claim that Sterigenics’ chemical emissions gave them cancer or, even worse, caused the death of a family member. I hope news of the company’s closing is of some solace to them, and that no community will ever again be treated as callously as they were.”

Sterigenics-300x202“I am disgusted, but not surprised, by the Illinois EPA’s decision to grant Sterigenics a permit to reopen. This is the same state agency that, in 1984, gave the operator of the Willowbrook plant a permit to emit ethylene oxide into the local community in quantities that the state knew posed an unacceptable cancer risk to local residents.

 With this latest permit issuance, Illinois has proved once again why it cannot be trusted to protect its citizens.  It seems more interested in protecting Sterigenics’ right to make a profit.

For many years, Sterigenics has spewed a very dangerous carcinogen into a residential community.  It never warned the people who live and work there. Children.  Parents. Students. Teachers. Youth sports team players and coaches. Workers in the local shops. It never gave them a chance to protect themselves.  By these actions, Sterigenics forfeited its right to operate here.

water-1154080_1920-1024x680In the United States, more than 13 million households rely on private wells to get their drinking water. But unlike municipal sources of drinking water, like a town or city, private wells are not regulated by the government. Instead, private well owners are responsible for the safety of their own drinking water.

To make sure that private well water is free from contaminants, wells should be tested at least once a year. Yet, routine water tests for private wells are uncommon in Illinois and in other places across the country. Without these tests, however, families have no way of knowing whether their private well water is safe to drink.

Testing your well water is important because it’s the only way to determine whether it contains chemicals or other contaminants that may be harmful to your health. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warns that the following contaminants are commonly found in private well water:

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