Articles Tagged with Air pollution

SterigenicsThe Collins Law Firm has filed eleven lawsuits against Sterigenics alleging their clients have contracted cancer after being exposed to Sterigenics’ ethylene oxide emissions for years. According to the lawsuits, Sterigenics knowingly emitted the cancer-causing gas starting in 1985 and continuing through 2019. As a result, residents who lived or worked in the nearby communities, including Willowbrook, Burr Ridge, and Darien, were exposed to a carcinogen that raised their cancer risk many times above the national average, according to a government report. Moreover, Sterigenics operated their facility without apparent concern for the health of nearby residents and without warning them of the potential danger.

“Our law firm is dedicated to protecting people from reckless and wrongful conduct by corporate polluters. It is our expectation that these lawsuits will bring justice to these families whose lives have been devastated by catastrophic illness. We also hope that, when Sterigenics’ behavior over the years is exposed publicly through our lawsuits, the State of Illinois will finally shut the company down permanently.” said Shawn Collins, partner at The Collins Law Firm.

The lawsuits, filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County on Monday, are brought on behalf of our clients who have suffered from or lost a loved one to, breast cancer, multiple myeloma, Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, lymphocytic lymphoma, and T cell lymphoma. All of the plaintiffs lived for a number of years within close proximity to the Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook, Illinois. This plant, which emitted ethylene oxide for years, is within a mile of 20,000 people and four schools.

The Sterigenics facility in Willowbrook, IL has been using ethylene oxide (EtO), a known human carcinogen, to sterilize medical and other equipment since the 1980s. Recently, U.S. EPA and the Village of Willowbrook tested the air around the Sterigenics facility and found alarming amounts of this chemical in the air near schools and other locations by the facility. These dangerous EtO levels prompted Illinois EPA to issue a Seal Order that shut down sterilization operations and use of EtO at Sterigenics on February 15, 2019. Sterigenics has not been permitted to use or emit EtO since.

willowbrook-protest-225x300After the Seal Order was issued, the community and their elected officials did not rest. They continued to fight to ensure that EtO cannot bring any more harm to their neighborhood or to other neighborhoods across Illinois. As a result of their advocacy, the Illinois Legislature passed Senate Bill 1852, which went into effect on June 21, 2019. This new law is known as the Matt Haller Act and was named in honor of a 45-year-old Willowbrook resident who passed away earlier this year from stomach cancer. Haller had lived approximately 1 mile from the Sterigenics plant and advocated for its closure. The Matt Haller Act is purported to impose the strongest restrictions on ethylene oxide use in the nation.

Despite the Matt Haller Act, the Seal Order and the community’s fight to live in an EtO-free environment, Sterigenics has not stopped pushing to emit more carcinogenic EtO into the community’s air. Just days after Governor Pritzker signed the Matt Haller Act, Sterigenics asked Illinois EPA for a construction permit which would allow it to operate and use EtO under new conditions, such as a taller emissions stack. Sterigenics filed this construction permit application on June 24, 2019.

chimney-3705424_1920-1024x646Talk about federal government overreach! The EPA is planning to weaken rules that allow local communities to have a say in deciding how much pollution in their backyard is too much.  If the agency’s proposed changes go into effect, local individuals and community advocates would no longer be able to appeal to a panel of judges EPA-issued pollution permits that they oppose. More precisely, the new rule would allow the industrial polluter to appeal to the panel to INCREASE its allowed pollution, but the affected community could not appeal to REDUCE the pollution! The proposed rule change is so bad that even industry lawyers seemed surprised by its inequity.

This outrage is just the latest act of environmental sabotage by the EPA since Donald Trump took office.  Other efforts to roll back environmental regulations that protect public health include a rule weakening regulations of greenhouse pollution from power plants (hello, climate change), a coming plan to weaken rules on tailpipe pollution, and a proposal to open most of the US coastline to oil drilling.

Environmental law experts say the proposed rule change will give polluters an even stronger influence over the EPA and could lead to more lenient pollution permits which would hurt poor and minority communities who tend to live closer to polluters than more affluent citizens. The end result for many communities would be that they would no longer have a voice in decisions–made by the pro-pollution EPA– that would affect their homes and their health.

EPA’s Air Pollution Chief, Bill Wehrum, recently announced his plans to resign. This announcement comes just two months after the sam-bark-R1GWSOJ9cng-unsplash-300x200House Committee on Energy & Commerce started investigating him for potential federal ethics rules violations. Wehrum’s conduct came into question when Wehrum allegedly provided conflicting information to Congress about his ties to his old law firm and the Utility Air Regulatory Group, a lobbyist group that fights Clean Air Act regulations.

Before joining EPA, Wehrum worked as a lawyer and lobbyist for power companies seeking to scale back air pollution rules. His client list included the Utility Air Regulatory Group. In his position at EPA, Wehrum met with some of the Utility Air Regulatory Group’s members, which might be a violation of the federal ethics rules that require that he recuse himself if they were his former clients. Given his “industry first” attitude that has loosened air pollution rules, it’s not a surprise that people question Wehrum’s motives.

Wehrum’s departure is definitely something to celebrate. He looked out for industry to the detriment of human health and the environment by wreaking havoc on environmental regulations. During his one and a half years at EPA, Wehrum championed industry, rolling back the Obama Administration’s farthest-reaching air policies. Most recently, he finalized the so-called Affordable Clean Energy rule, which helps the coal industry by reducing carbon emissions by less than half of what experts say is necessary to avoid a climate change catastrophe. Wehrum also played a role in relaxing tailpipe emission standards and changing how EPA measures the health effects of air pollution. In the Chicago-area, he showed a complete disregard for the health of communities affected by ethylene oxide emissions from Sterigenics by agreeing that it is possible for Sterigenics to reopen if they implement stricter pollution controls. It’s certainly not a shame to see Wehrum leave!

Willowbrook has been in the news recently because of a federal government report which revealed that Sterigenics has been contaminating the community with a carcinogen known as ethylene oxide for decades, resulting in a significantly elevated cancer risk for nearby residents. This situation reminds me of some similar cases I was involved in: the Lockformer lawsuits in Lisle, IL.

My name is Shawn Collins. I’m the lawyer whose firm–The Collins Law Firm in Naperville– represented a community of families in those cases. In three separate cases, we successfully won from the polluter (Lockformer, in Lisle) $27 million in property damage; a generous settlement (the precise amount remains confidential) for a young woman who had contracted cancer from exposure to the chemical; tens of millions more for a fund for future cancer victims; and a safe, clean water supply for hundreds of area families.

The saddest but most meaningful case was the one for the young cancer victim. Her illness is why we are right to take so seriously toxic contamination in our communities. We don’t want devastating illness to happen to anyone we love.

Are you looking for an experienced attorney for your Willowbrook, IL cancer case? The Collins Law Firm is now investigating toxic tort lawsuits for people living or working within 2 miles of the Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook, IL who have been diagnosed with cancer.

The Collins Law Firm Can Help You Investigate a Possible Cancer Lawsuit

woman-3602245_1920-thumb-300x200-106626-thumb-300x200-106627-thumb-300x200-106632-300x200We are a trusted, environmental personal injury law firm, and we have been representing clients diagnosed with cancer after being exposed to toxic chemicals for years. We are unique among personal injury firms, because we have decades of experience dealing with the complex science that is a part of these “toxic tort” cancer cases. These lawsuits are not typical personal injury cases, like the car crashes or slip and falls, which most personal injury firms handle. They are an environmental lawsuit and a personal injury case blended into one complex case and require the right kind of scientific experts and legal experience.

Hundreds of Willowbrook residents filled a standing-room-only meeting last night. They came to hear their government explain whether their health is in danger due to the ethylene oxide pollution that a local company, Sterigenics, has been belching into their neighborhood for the last 30 years.

Ethylene oxide is a nasty carcinogen. But the people of Willowbrook had no idea that such a chemical even existed, let alone that it had been in their neighborhood for decades. Until last week.

Sterigenics has known–probably since the 1980’s–that it was causing ethylene oxide pollution in Willowbrook. So did government, or at least it should have known. Its job was to know. Hard to say what is worse: the government knowing about the ethylene oxide pollution for many years and doing nothing to protect the people of Willowbrook, or the government not knowing anything about the problem until just now.

aeroplane-1867209_1920.jpgA study by the World Health Organization (WHO) has concluded that the air inside airplane cabins can be “contaminated by pyrolysed engine oil and other aircraft fluids [that] can reasonably be linked to acute and chronic symptoms”, including:

  • “eye, nose and throat irritations, skin reactions, recurrent respiratory tract infections and fatigue, nausea and cramps”, and
  • “cardiovascular, neurobehavioral, neurological and respiratory symptoms, chronic fatigue, multiple chemical sensitivity, aerotoxic syndrome, cancer, and soft tissue damage.”

coal-1626401_1920.jpgIn recent executive orders, President Trump announced his intention to allow coal companies to spew significantly more health-endangering chemicals into the environment. “Reducing costs will bring back coal industry jobs”, is Trump’s justification. But a survey of 32 utilities–all of whom had been moving away from coal production– proves that Trump’s justification is wrong. Only one of the 32 said that Trump’s executive orders caused it to re-think its move away from coal. Overwhelmingly, the utility companies said that Trump’s orders will not cause them to re-commit to coal, largely because alternative energy sources–such as natural gas, wind and solar power–are so much cheaper. No one should have been surprised by these survey results, least of all the President. The high water mark for American coal industry employment was 1925, almost a century ago, and the steady declines since have tracked the declines in many American industries over than time.

The reason for the loss of coal industry jobs over the last 90+ years is not the Obama administration’s environmental regulations of 5 years ago that the President has fraudulently attacked. It is cruel of the President to create false hope in coal miners and their families that simply allowing coal plants to pollute more is going to bring back their jobs, let alone their industry. As a country, we should thank these workers for their brave and necessary service that helped make American industry the marvel of the world. And we should provide them the health care which they badly need, and re-train them for work in other well-paying jobs.

But we should not lie to them. And we should not allow massive new pollution in order to “bring back” jobs to an industry that is quickly becoming extinct.

In a recent decision described by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy as “a resounding victory for public health and a key component of EPA’s efforts to make sure all Americans have clean air to breathe,” the Supreme Court backed federally imposed limits on smoke stack emissions that cross state lines. The ruling, issued on April 29th, upholds rules adopted by EPA in 2011 that force polluting power plants to limit the emission of pollutants that ultimately contaminate air in downwind states and cause smog and acid rain. The Supreme Court held that under the Federal Clean Air Act, the EPA can regulate states that do not adequately control downwind pollution. According to the EPA, the reduction in air pollution will result in hundreds of billions of dollars in health care savings and prevent more than 30,000 premature deaths.

As acknowledged by the EPA and public health agencies, environmental exposures to contaminated air and water are significant risks factors in human illnesses, including cancer. Unfortunately, decades of improper chemical disposal has left a legacy of thousands of contaminated waste sites across the country. As a result of this legacy — today — homeowners from coast to coast are learning that their homes have been contaminated with cancer causing chemicals like TCE, PCE, Benzene and Vinyl Chloride.

Hopefully, the Supreme Court’s recent ruling will spare future generations from the very real consequences of environmental pollution.

badge
badge
badge
badge
badge
badge
badge
badge
badge
badge
badge
Contact Information