In 2018, the news broke that a company in the Chicago suburbs had been releasing ethylene oxide, a toxic gas, into the community, potentially putting residents at risk. Sterigenics, which operated a medical device sterilization facility located in Willowbrook, was accused of failing to take the proper measures to protect public safety, and it has faced a large number of personal injury lawsuits by people who claimed that they contracted cancer or other conditions after living or working near the facility. Recently, Sotera Health, the parent company of Sterigenics, reached a settlement agreement that would allow it to resolve nearly all of these lawsuits.
What Is Ethylene Oxide?
Ethylene oxide is a colorless gas that has been used for decades as a sterilizing and fumigation agent in a variety of industries. It is used in the medical device industry to sterilize single-use instruments, surgical gowns and drapes, endoscopes, and other medical items. While ethylene oxide can be an effective sterilization agent, it is also highly toxic. Some studies have found that ethylene oxide can cause cancer and other serious health conditions if people are exposed to it over long periods of time. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has declared that ethylene oxide is a hazardous air pollutant.
$408 Million Settlement Following $363 Million Verdict
Since 2018, over 800 lawsuits have been filed against Sterigenics and Sotera Health. In September of 2022, a verdict was reached in the first lawsuit, and a jury ruled in favor of a woman who had contracted breast cancer after living near the Willowbrook facility. She was awarded $363 million. However, in the second lawsuit, a jury found in favor of Sterigenics and did not award any compensation to the plaintiff....