The 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 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’s clients are represented by attorneys Shawn Collins, Ed Manzke, Margaret Galka, and Norm Berger (of counsel).
Jeanne Hochhalter, one of the firm’s clients, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, spoke bravely about her battle with cancer at a press conference announcing the filings of the lawsuits. For local press coverage of Jeanne and the filings, click on one of the links below:
The Collins Law Firm is very proud of Jeanne for her advocacy on behalf of families whose lives may have been affected by Sterigenics’ ethylene oxide emissions.
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.
Meg Collins contributed to this blog.