When You Need a Lawyer who Will Fight for You

Ethylene Oxide Contamination

What You Need to Know About Ethylene Oxide What is Ethylene Oxide?

Ethylene oxide is a flammable gas which has a somewhat sweet odor. It dissolves easily in alcohol, water and most organic solvents. It also goes by the name oxirane or ETO.

What is Ethylene Oxide Used for?

Ethylene oxide is usually used in the production of: other chemicals such as ethylene glycol (antifreeze), detergents, solvents, textiles, polyurethane foam, polyester, and adhesives. A small amount of ethylene oxide is used to control insects in nuts and spices. It is also used to sterilize medical equipment and supplies, either in hospitals or other facilities.

How Might I be Exposed to Ethylene Oxide?

People who work in factories that manufacture or process ethylene oxide; who work as sterilizing technicians; or who are fumigation workers may be exposed to ethylene oxide in the workplace by breathing the air.

People in the general population may be exposed to ethylene oxide by breathing contaminated air from uncontrolled emissions or venting from a facility that uses the chemical.

Individuals who smoke may also be exposed to ethylene oxide through tobacco smoke.

What Happens to Ethylene Oxide in the Environment?

When ethylene oxide is released into the air it is broken down by humidity and sunlight. The chemical is also broken down or destroyed by bacteria in a few days when it is in water. Once it enters the body, ethylene oxide is expelled rather quickly, perhaps in as little as 2-3 days.

How can Ethylene Oxide Affect My Health?

Based on studies involving humans and on animal studies, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have determined that ethylene oxide is carcinogenic to humans.

Scientific studies have linked exposure to ethylene oxide to a variety of cancers, including:

  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Leukemia
  • Breast cancer

Less conclusive evidence has shown a possible link to:

  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Kidney cancer

Furthermore, some animal studies have shown a link to:

  • Lung cancer
  • Brain tumors
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma
  • Uterine cancer

Other possible health effects include:

  • Miscarriages
  • Testicular degeneration
  • Kidney damage
  • Irritation of eyes, skin, and respiratory passages
  • Seizures
  • Cataracts
  • Headaches
  • Numbness
  • Memory loss
  • Nausea
  • Asthma
Is There a Medical Test That Shows Whether I Have Been Exposed to Ethylene Oxide?

There are two tests—done in a specialty lab—that can determine if you have been exposed to ethylene oxide. One test measures ethylene oxide in the blood; the other measures it in your breath. However, if you were exposed more than 2 or 3 days ago, ethylene oxide may not show up in these tests. Similarly, if you were exposed to a very low level of ethylene oxide, it may not be detected in these tests. Furthermore, these tests will not predict future health effects resulting from exposure.

What can I do to Protect My Family?
  1. Join forces with your neighbors and start making noise. The media is your friend.
  2. Demand that the polluter cease emitting ethylene oxide into your community’s air.
  3. Ask local government and state agencies to step in and help.
  4. See your physician if you think the health of anyone in your family may be affected.
  5. Talk with an experienced, environmental attorney to discover your legal options.

For more information:

The National Trial Lawyers
Best Law Firms
Super Lawyers
America's Top 100
Martindale Hubbell
American Association for Justice
Illinois State Bar Association
ITLA
The Chicago Bar Association
DCBA
Avvo
Client Reviews
★★★★★
Shawn Collins is a very talented lawyer, as are all the attorneys on his team. I've known and worked with Shawn for more that 30 years. Not only is he a top notch technical litigator but his communication skills are second to none. If anyone I know is ever in need of an attorney, Shawn is my very first recommendation. He gives very solid advice that goes beyond the law. He is someone you can trust to tell you the truth so you are not lead astray in the complex legal world. You really can't find a better advocate. E.M.
★★★★★
We were incredibly satisfied with our experience with The Collins Law Firm. We worked closely with Ed Manzke and found that he had a personal touch and truly got to know us in addition to being knowledgeable and effective in his field. The caring and individual attitude helped us tremendously throughout the entire process and we always felt like our case was in safe hands. We would highly recommend The Collins Law Firm for both its stellar work and dedicated employees. M.A.
★★★★★
My father recommended The Collins Law Firm to me after watching Shawn Collins and Ed Manzke at trial representing Lisle residents against Lockformer. For years, he told us courtroom tales about Shawn and Ed, citing their incredible skill as trial lawyers and how they put the huge Lockformer legal team to shame. So when my son was the victim of a wrongful death, they were my first and only choice. I can't say enough to truly express how grateful I am to The Collin's Law Firm for all that they did for me and my family. This amazing team advocated for me in my darkest moments, surpassing my expectations in every way. I will be forever grateful to Shawn and Ed. K.D.
★★★★★
I have worked with Rob, Shawn and The Collins Law Firm team in connection with both complex business transactions and litigation over the past several years. Shawn is far and away the best business litigation attorney I have worked with. Rob has been our lead attorney on M&A and corporate restructures, and he has delivered each time, and on time. I would highly recommend Rob to get the deal done! W.D.
★★★★★
Rob has been our out-side General Counsel for ten years. As a business with a global presence, it is important that we have the very best legal representation. Rob and the team have guided us through litigation battles, negotiating and drafting our important business contracts, and advising us in our business strategies. He has a great team of lawyers working with him. M.F.