An Ethylene Oxide (EtO) lawsuit is a claim against companies that manufacture and pump EtO into the air, causing people with chronic exposure to the gas to develop cancer.
Shouse Law Group represents EtO victims all around the United States and is fighting for the largest financial settlement possible under the law.
To qualify for a lawsuit, (1) you must have worked at or lived near a facility that makes or emits EtO, and (2) you were diagnosed with one of the following diseases:
- brain cancer
- breast cancer
- connective tissue cancer
- lung cancer
- lymphocytic leukemia
- non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- stomach cancer
- uterine cancer
In this article, our ethylene oxide lawsuit attorneys discuss:
- 1. What is ethylene oxide?
- 2. Does ethylene oxide cause cancer?
- 3. Which facilities produce ethylene oxide?
- 4. What is the status of the litigation?
- 5. How much money can I get?
- 6. What should I do if I am an EtO victim?
1. What is ethylene oxide?
Ethylene oxide (EtO) is an invisible, odorless gas. EtO is a factory byproduct of manufacturing antifreeze (ethylene glycol) and various other materials such as:
EtO’s primary purpose is to sterilize products such as medical equipment.1 Currently, more than 100 factories throughout the United States make EtO.2
2. Does ethylene oxide cause cancer?
Yes. In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proclaimed EtO is a “human carcinogen.”3 In addition, studies show that workers exposed to high levels of ethylene oxide have an increased risk of cancer.4
For instance, the Georgia Comprehensive Cancer Registry reveals that people who live by the Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD) plant in Covington, Georgia show increased rates of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. And the CDC found elevated risks of cancer for people near the Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook, Illinois.5
People exposed to EtO long-term may also suffer:
- increased miscarriage risks
- memory loss
- skin and eye irritation6
The people most susceptible to EtO exposure are people who work in or live near one of the more than 100 factories that create EtO. Hospital workers who use EtO to sterilize medical equipment also risk high concentrations of exposure.7
3. Which facilities produce ethylene oxide?
Go to the EPA’s Ethylene Oxide Commercial Sterilization Facilities website to search for EtO facilities by state.
Some of the larger corporations with EtO facilities include:
- Abbott Laboratories
- Becton Dickinson
- Boston Scientific
- Edward Lifesciences
- Johnson & Johnson
- Sotera Health
4. What is the status of the litigation?
On September 19, 2022, a jury in Cook County, Illinois awarded $363 million to a plaintiff who claimed that EtO emissions from the Willowbrook Sterigenics facility she lived close to caused her breast cancer.9
Based on the enormity of this jury award, we are expecting tens of thousands of more victims to file lawsuits against the companies responsible for their EtO exposure. There are already hundreds of individual lawsuits against various corporations alleging that their EtO emissions caused the plaintiffs’ cancer.10
Victims are suing on such grounds as:
- strict products liability,
- defective design, and/or
- failure to warn.
There is a possibility that all the EtO lawsuits will join together into a multi-district litigation (MDL). MDLs are similar to a class action except that each plaintiff’s case remains separate.
The primary benefit of an MDL is that it expedites litigation and the negotiation process. Instead of thousands of cases snaking through hundreds of different courts, one judge in one federal court makes all the pretrial decisions.
Eventually, the MDL judge will permit a few cases to go to trial – called bellwether trials. How these verdicts turn out then sets the stage for settlement talks.
We predict companies will offer generous settlements in an effort to avoid another Cook County-type jury award.
5. How much money can I get?
Our personal injury attorneys are pursuing the largest settlement available to cover your expenses, including:
- medical treatments,
- lost wages from being too ill to work, and
- pain and suffering.
If you are bringing a wrongful death suit on behalf of a family member that died of cancer caused by EtO air pollution, we would also fight for loss of support and funeral expenses.
In addition, we are fighting for punitive damages to punish the companies for being a public health risk by continuing to use EtO even after the EPA declared it a human carcinogen in 2016.
In fact, the BD plant in Covington, Georgia actually increased EtO emissions after 2016.11 Meanwhile, evidence that EtO increased cancer risks was available as far back as 1985.12
6. What should I do if I am an EtO victim?
Contact Shouse Law Group to discuss your case. Have ready such information as:
- the dates range of your ethylene oxide exposure;
- the location where the exposure occurred; and
- the date of your diagnosis.
If we believe you have a case, we will bring a lawsuit on your behalf against the companies responsible for causing your cancer. We will obtain your medical records and handle the entire legal process so you can focus all your attention on your health and your family and loved ones.
Most importantly, bringing a lawsuit is risk-free. Our law firm takes no payment unless we win your lawsuit.
- Frequent Questions about Ethylene Oxide (EtO), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Ethylene Oxide Risk from Commercial Sterilizers, EPA. See also David Lim, Ethylene oxide plant closures put US on ‘cusp of a major medical logistical failure’, MedTechDive (November 8, 2019).
- Ethylene Oxide Commercial Sterilization Facilities, EPA.
- Ethylene Oxide, EPA.
- Kyle Steenland, et. al., Ethylene oxide and breast cancer incidence in a cohort study of 7576 women (United States), Cancer Causes & Control, Vol. 14 (2003). Kyle Steenland, et. al., Mortality among Workers Exposed to Ethylene Oxide, New England Journal of Medicine (May 16, 1991).
- Brenda Goodman and Andy Miller, Neighborhoods unaware of airborne cancer-causing toxin, Georgia Health News (July 19, 2019)(Covington is part of the Atlanta metropolitan area).
- Ethylene Oxide, OSHA. Ethylene Oxide, CDC.
- See notes 1 and 4.
- Ricky Zipp, Device makers with ethylene oxide facilities at risk of lawsuits after Sterigenics loss: Needham, MedTechDive (September 23, 2022).
- Editorial: Lessons from the Sterigenics case. Why allow harmful emissions so close to homes and schools? Chicago Tribune (September 27, 2022).
- Kimberly Fornek, 76 lawsuits have been filed over ethylene oxide emissions at Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook and more may be coming, attorney says, Chicago Tribune (January 30, 2020).
- Nancy Crotti, Report: Ethylene oxide levels high near Georgia medtech sterilization plants, Mass Device (July 23, 2019).
- Health assessment document for ethylene oxide: Final report, EPA (1985).