The 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 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.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry began investigating Sterigenics after the EPA re-classified ethylene oxide as “carcinogenic to humans”, and declared it to be 30 times more carcinogenic than previously believed. The ATSDR decided to evaluate the implications of this change on the area surrounding Sterigenics by having the EPA test the air. Those initial tests found elevated levels of ethylene oxide which the ATSDR concluded posed a “public health hazard” to the surrounding community and raised resident’s lifetime cancer risk to 64 times the EPA’s acceptable limit. Later rounds of testing confirmed the presence of elevated levels of ethylene oxide in the air at multiple locations, including at area schools, and an Illinois Department of Public Health study found elevated levels of certain cancers in the communities around Sterigenics.
The firm has filed eleven other lawsuits against Sterigenics on behalf of clients who are suffering from, or who have lost a loved one to, breast cancer, multiple myeloma, leukemia, lymphoma, and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Attorneys Shawn Collins, Ed Manzke, Margaret Galka, and Norm Berger (of counsel) represent the clients.
For more coverage of Yasmeen’s brave battle with cancer, click on one of the links below:
Anyone who believes that their health or the health of a loved one has been affected by exposure to Sterigenics’ ethylene oxide should contact our environmental attorneys at (630) 527-1595 or fill out our contact form.