Like the recently closed Sterigenics facility in Willowbrook, another Chicago area medical supply company appears to be using cancer-causing ethylene oxide (EtO) as a sterilization method for its products.
An air toxics study conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicates that ethylene oxide emissions from the Medline Industries facility in Waukegan are responsible for alarmingly high cancer risks in four predominantly Latino and African American communities surrounding the plant.
The lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, leukemia, and lymphoma among the more than 19,000 people living in these communities is up to five times higher than the national average, according to the EPA study.
Waukegan Residents Remain Concerned
While Medline is pledging to install new pollution control equipment that it says will dramatically reduce cancer-causing emissions from the plant, it continues to argue that banning the use of ethylene oxide would damage the company and endanger patients. It also has joined chemical industry lobbyists who claim that ethylene oxide poses few, if any, health risks.
All of this has done little to calm the fears of worried Waukegan residents, who feel that the company’s actions are inadequate. “If this doesn’t work, what happens?” asks Nancy Loeb, legal adviser to Stop EtO Lake County, a recently organized community group. “From my reading of what the company and the state are proposing, there is no guarantee Illinois EPA will take enforcement action if the community is still in danger.”
As a result, community members are demanding that state and federal environmental protection agencies test the air quality around the Medline plant on a regular basis.
Holding Medline Accountable
To date, Medline has avoided the intense scrutiny that forced the shutdown of the Sterigenics facility earlier this year. In that case, an unusually high number of residents in the area surrounding the plant were suffering from a host of cancers likely caused by exposure to EtO gas emitted from the plant.
The Law Firm of Pintas & Mullins currently represents hundreds of these individuals. Their claims that Sterigenics is responsible for their cancers are backed by reports from a wide range of organizations – from the National Cancer Institute to the International Agency for Research on Cancer – which link ethylene oxide exposure to the same kinds of cancer affecting residents of Willowbrook and now Waukegan.
While the Waukegan community is pressuring both Medline and the EPA to continuously monitor air quality around the plant, our concern remains for area residents already fighting medical problems or those who may receive a cancer diagnosis in the future. If you suspect you may be a victim of cancer caused by emissions from the Medline facility, it’s your responsibility to hold the company accountable. Contact the experienced attorneys at The Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at 312-319-4666 today to learn more about your legal rights.