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Articles Tagged with Air pollution

Explosion-1-1-300x188The Collins Law Firm, P.C. has filed a class action lawsuit against Chemtool Incorporated on behalf of residents affected by the explosion that occurred at their Rockton, Illinois plant on June 14, 2021. The explosion resulted in an enormous chemical fire that created a massive plume of toxic smoke, ash, and debris that could be seen from 100 miles away. Eighty-nine fire departments were dispatched to the site to aid in combating the fire, however, due to concern about the environmental impact to the nearby Rock River, they did not engage immediately in fire suppression activities.

As a result of the fire, the Winnebago County authorities issued an executive proclamation of disaster emergency and ordered a mandatory evacuation of residents living within a one-mile radius of the plant. The affected residents were directed not to return home even for medication, technology and communication devices, or other personal items.

Authorities also advised residents within three miles of the plant to wear masks for protection against the potentially toxic and harmful chemicals released by the fire, and to remain indoors without using their air conditioning. Residents were further warned not to touch any of the debris on their property but to have it removed by professionals with experience working with hazardous materials.

Explosion-1-300x188UPDATE: The Collins Law Firm. P.C. and Miner Barnhill & Galland, P.C. have filed a class action lawsuit against Chemtool Incorporated on behalf of residents affected by the explosion and fire that caused them to be evacuated from the area.

A massive explosion and fire at the Chemtool plant, 1165 Prairie Road, in Rockton, IL, has caused huge plumes of ash and debris to blanket homes and businesses two miles and further from the plant, not only in Rockton but in South Beloit and other communities, as well.  Chemtool manufactures greases, including lithium, lithium complex,  aluminum, and clay/bentonite greases.

Along with the debris, it is likely that toxic chemicals have also been released into the air in these communities, and that residents will be inhaling them for some time to come.  Local officials have issued a mandatory evacuation order for residents living within a mile of Chemtool due to the falling ash and the potentially dangerous chemicals released in the fire. At least 1000 residents have been evacuated, along with several businesses. In addition, anyone within three miles of the plant has been advised to wear a mask for protection.

environmental-protection-326923_1920-1024x683COVID-19 has had disastrous effects on humans around the globe. It has killed thousands, left even more in financial despair, and infected millions of people worldwide. However, it does not come without a silver lining. As a result of coronavirus-related shutdowns, air pollution, which plays a major role in whether those infected with COVID-19 live or die, is at its lowest level in years. If we pay close enough attention, this pandemic can also function as a learning moment for the climate crisis.

Worldwide, air pollution levels have dropped drastically as a result of shelter-in-place orders. The Himalayas are visible to those in India for the first time in years, skies across the globe are clearer than they’ve been in a very long time, and air pollution levels are the best they’ve been in nearly three decades. Perhaps more importantly,  highways are empty, planes are grounded, and factories have slowed production, reducing hazardous emissions in the air. While these improvements are exciting, they are temporary. The sharp reduction in fossil fuel pollution as a direct result of shelter-in-place orders has caused a short-term improvement in the quality of air that we are breathing.

However, we cannot expect these results to continue once the pandemic is over and orders are lifted. We must use this moment to pay attention and move forward into a new and better future. If we do not, when the shutdowns are over and life returns to the way it was, so will air pollution levels. We’re already seeing this happen in China, where the shutdown in response to COVID-19 is being slowly lifted. China’s air pollution levels dropped just like ours have. Now that their shutdown is being lifted, air pollution levels have jumped right back up to where they were before. Not only is this extremely disappointing for the fate of our planet, but it’s also extremely scary given that their shelter-in-place orders are not even fully lifted yet. This means that it’s possible that China’s air pollution levels may be even worse once the pandemic is fully over.

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…

 

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?

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.

clothesline-804812_1920-300x200The companies who sell plug-in air fresheners advertise how they make your house smell clean and fresh, and show you photos that make it appear as if the fresheners are bringing nature right into your home. What the commercials don’t say is that plug-in air fresheners may also be bathing your house in toxic chemicals that can harm your health.

One of the primary concerns with plug-in air fresheners is their use of phthalates. In fact, the National Resources Defense Council conducted a study that concluded that 86% of the air fresheners tested contain phthalates. Why is this a problem? Phthalates are disruptive to the body, alter hormone levels, interfere with testosterone, and are associated with reproductive abnormalities and birth defects.  They can also cause asthma and allergic reactions. And studies in animals show an alarming possibility of a link to cancer and liver and kidney toxicity.

But there is more. Air fresheners also typically contain formaldehyde, a toxic compound that is definitely linked to cancer of the nose and throat. Formaldehyde can also cause irritation of the throat and airways, potentially leading to infections and other respiratory ailments. In fact, a study in 2013 done by the International Journal of Public Health found that babies whose mothers used plug-in air fresheners during pregnancy were far more likely to have a serious lung infection than babies whose mothers did not.

SterigenicsThe Collins Law Firm has filed eleven lawsuits against Sterigenics alleging their clients 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, leukemia, 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, the 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 the 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.

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