The Chicago firm of Zneimer & Zneimer PC is prosecuting cases involving exposure to ethylene oxide, the poisonous gas released by Willowbrook-based company Sterigenics. The Illinois EPA recently sealed Sterigenics-operated facilities because it detected high level of ethylene oxide, a carcinogen that is connected with breast cancer, leukemia, lymphoma and a score of other cancers, that the facilities be sealed.
The two buildings operated by Sterigenics are located at 7775 South Quincy Street and the other at 830 Midway Street. Sterigenics conducted sterilization operations, using ethylene oxide, which Sterigenics released into the atmosphere. Since 1990 the US EPA has listed ethylene oxide as a hazardous air pollutant as defined in Section 112(b)(l) of the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. 7412(b)(1), and considers ethylene oxide as carcinogenic to humans, causing increased incidence o f mortality of breast and lymphohematopoietic system cancers observed in workers who were exposed ethylene oxide.
According to the CDC, exposer to 2.1 micrograms of ethylene oxide can cause cancer in six out of every one thousand people exposed to the chemical. The detected concentration in Willobrook was 14.2 micrograms, which is toxic concentration. The Illinois EPA ordered the Willowbrook facility to shut down due to the unacceptably high toxic concentrations. According to the government agencies, EPA and CDC, there is enough evidence to establish a causal relationship between ethylene oxide exposure and breast cancer in women. Ethylene oxide causes cancer by damaging DNA in cell, and the damaged DNA then duplicates when the cells divide. Exposure to the chemical increases the cancer risk because DNA damage may take place with each exposure which is then passed as cells divide, increasing the number of damaged mutating cells. Continue reading