Articles Tagged with cancer

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.

yasmeen-1-300x206The Collins Law Firm has filed a lawsuit against Sterigenics alleging that its client, 16-year-old Yasmeen Harrison, has battled cancer for most of her young life because of Sterigenics’ ethylene oxide emissions. According to the lawsuit, Sterigenics knowingly emitted “massive and unnecessary amounts of ethylene oxide, an invisible, odorless carcinogen” into neighboring communities, including Willowbrook, Burr Ridge, and Darien, starting in 1985 and continuing through 2019. As a result, residents like Yasmeen and her family, who lived, worked and attended school in those communities were “exposed to an unacceptably high level of ethylene oxide and therefore exposed to an unacceptably high risk of cancer”, said attorney Shawn Collins. Moreover, Sterigenics ignored an IL EPA engineer’s 1984 letter alerting them to the cancer risk associated with ethylene oxide exposure and forged ahead with the facility without warning neighbors of the danger.

The lawsuit, filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, was brought on behalf of Yasmeen Harrison, who was diagnosed in 2005 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) as a toddler. But that was just the beginning of her arduous journey. After a brief period in remission, the cancer returned in 2007. To combat this recurrence, Yasmeen-4-216x300Yasmeen underwent a bone marrow transplant, but then contracted another cancer—myelodysplastic syndrome– in 2009. After a second bone marrow transplant and rocky recovery, things seemed to be looking up, when it was discovered in 2017 that Yasmeen had yet another cancer. This time it was kidney cancer.  Surgery followed and today that cancer is in remission. The lawsuit alleges that Yasmeen’s exposure to Sterigenics’ ethylene oxide as an infant, as well as her mother’s exposure while pregnant, contributed to her cancer.

“Helping people like Yasmeen who have been irreparably harmed by the reckless and wrongful conduct of polluters is the reason we practice law. We believe that the lawsuits we are filing will bring justice to Yasmeen, her family and the other families who are suffering from devastating illnesses. Yasmeen has been so brave and tenacious throughout her long battle; it is now time for us to take up the mantle and fight for her.” said Shawn Collins, partner at The Collins Law Firm.

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.

A cancer diagnosis is scary, sometimes devastating. pink-ribbon-3715346_1920-1-300x200 But it is all the more so if your cancer might have been caused by exposure to a toxic chemical in your home, air or water.  There is a true sense of violation and betrayal when a cancer victim realizes that her illness might have been caused, for example, by the careless dumping of industrial chemicals by a company in her neighborhood.  It may even be a company where the cancer victim herself, or a family member, worked for many years.

What should she do to find out if the company—the neighborhood polluter– caused her cancer? And beyond that, how can she find out if she has a toxic tort lawsuit against the polluter for her cancer?

To get answers to these questions, you will need to find an environmental lawyer who handles these kinds of cases—called “toxic exposure” cases.  Here are some of the critical questions that an experienced toxic tort lawyer will explore:

Last week, Governor Rauner finally joined the group of elected officials calling for the shutdown of the Sterigenics facility in Willowbrook. Officials had pressured Rauner to take action to protect the community after weeks of public outcry following the recent release of a report about cancer causing emissions coming from the plant.

Bruce_rauner_cropped-thumb-356x519-106443-thumb-250x364-106444-205x300That report, written by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, detailed a three decades long contamination of the Willowbrook area with a toxic carcinogen, ethylene oxide, by Sterigenics. The authors of the report came to the conclusion–after evaluating ethylene oxide testing done near the facility last May–that the emissions from Sterigenics posed “a public health hazard” and an elevated cancer risk for the community. In fact, the report estimated the cancer risk of exposed residents in the area to be 64 times the EPA’s acceptable lifetime risk.

Understandably, residents, many of whom already had cancer or who had lost a family member to cancer, were outraged. How could this have happened and how could any elected official allow it to continue happening?

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.

The Chicago Tribune recently reported on a new federal study by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) – released just last week – that highlights a danger to Willowbrook residents who live near Sterigenics International, at 830 Midway Drive and 7775 S. Quincy St., in Willowbrook, IL. According to the report, the people living near this facility face a higher cancer risk from toxic air pollution than much of the rest of the country.

Why? Apparently, Sterigenics uses and stores a toxic gas called “ethylene oxide” to sterilize medical equipment, and has been releasing that cancer causing chemical into the air since at least 1995.

Ethylene oxide has been listed on the federal list of carcinogens as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” since 1985. In 2000, that listing was revised to “known to be a human carcinogen”. Finally, in 2016, the US EPA – after much delay – released a new assessment of the toxic gas that concluded that ethylene oxide was even more dangerous than originally thought.

“Does this chemical cause cancer?” is one of the first questions I get from a mom or dad who has just learned that, unbeknownst to them, a toxic chemical from an industrial source has been in their family’s air or water supply for years.

I always caution that, even if the chemical(s) just discovered in their home or neighborhood can cause cancer, it does not mean that they will. In fact, in most contaminated homes and neighborhoods, statistics are on our side: the great majority of residents will not contract cancer as a result of exposure. The important thing is to understand and respect the dangers of these chemicals, and, depending on their toxicity, get your family out of harm’s way…..by, for example, supplying your home with bottled water to avoid, as much as possible, contact with the contaminated groundwater entering the home via your family’s kitchen tap, or installing a “vapor mitigation system” on your house to prevent contaminated gasses from intruding inside where your family will breathe them.

For this reason, it is important to be informed. This link from the American Cancer Society tells us what our most respected health agencies have concluded about the dangers of many chemicals, and specifically whether they are “known” or “suspected” to cause cancer in humans (given significant exposure over a long enough period of time). https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/general-info/known-and-probable-human-carcinogens.html

In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) gathered seventeen of the world’s top cancer researchers to evaluate glyphosate, a primary component of the popular weed-killer, Roundup. The seventeen member work group was led by Dr. Aaron Blair, a recently retired epidemiologist from the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

Over a year-long period, the work group reviewed nearly 1,000 peer-reviewed and published scientific studies. Based on the results of these studies, IARC unanimously classified glyphosate as a Group 2A chemical, “probably carcinogenic to humans.” This categorization is given when there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. Of the nearly 1,000 chemicals reviewed by IARC to determine the carcinogenic effect, fewer than 100 have received this designation.

The studies reviewed by IARC discussed glyphosate exposure and its connection to various serious health effects. They linked glyphosate exposure to: non-Hodgkin lymphoma, various other types of cancer, kidney disease, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and chronic respiratory illness. Studies further supported a connection between glyphosate exposure and attention deficit disorder, autism, birth defects and reproductive issues, even infertility.

Thumbnail image for agriculture-2229_1920.jpgIf many of us went to our garages or sheds, we would find “Roundup,” a popular lawn and garden weed killer sold by Monsanto. Since its commercial introduction in 1974, Roundup has become the most widely used weed killer in the United States, and possibly the world. In fact, Roundup is used in more than 160 countries internationally, with more than 1.4 billion pounds being applied to lawns and farms across the world annually.

The main ingredient in Roundup is an herbicide called “glyphosate.” Once glyphosate is applied to a plant, it prevents the plant from making certain proteins that are necessary for its continued growth. In order to allow for large-scale use of glyphosate on farms, crops have been genetically modified to be resistant to this herbicide.

After the introduction of genetically modified crops in the 1990’s, the use of glyphosate increased fifteen-fold across the United States. Glyphosate use continues to increase each year across the United States. Specifically, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, North Dakota, and southern Minnesota have some of the highest glyphosate usage in the United States.

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