Sterigenics Faces Ethylene Oxide Exposure Lawsuit Filed By Georgia Plant Employees

Sterigenics faces a lawsuit over ethylene oxide exposure brought by more than 50 individuals who indicate that they suffered various injuries after exposure to the toxic gas working at a medical equipment warehouse and distribution center in Georgia.

Ethylene oxide is a highly carcinogenic compound used to sterilize some medical devices, including those made of some polymers, metals, glass or made with multiple layers with hard-to-reach crevices. However, exposure to ethylene oxide has been linked to a growing number of lawsuits involving serious and potentially life-threatening injuries.

The latest complaint was brought by a group of 53 plaintiffs this month in Cobb County Circuit Court, including former workers at the facility, as well as relatives of individuals who died.

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Plaintiffs indicate workers were exposed to high-levels of ethylene oxide for more than a decade, after Sterigenics equipment was shipped to the warehouse in plain, unmarked trucks that were not equipped to contain traces of the toxic gas. The lawsuit claims exposure to the toxic gas while unloading the equipment resulted in various injuries, including lung disease, cancer, respiratory problems, neurological injuries and other complications.

In addition to Sterigenics, its parent company Sotera Health and ConMed Corporation, which operated the warehouse, are named as defendants, indicating that the companies knowingly exposed workers to dangerous levels of ethylene oxide without providing adequate warnings or ensuring adequate safety measures were in place.

In recent years, Sterigenics has experienced a number of problems with ethylene oxide, including claims that the highly toxic gas leaked from sterilization facilities and impacted surrounding neighborhoods.

In March 2019, the FDA warned that the Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook, Illinois was being shut down due to ethylene oxide leaks. Another facility in Michigan was also closed down for similar reasons. In August 2019, Georgia health officials determined similar leaks were occurring at a Sterigenics facility outside of Atlanta. That facility was shut down temporarily to address the problem, but has partially reopened.

At about the same time the Georgia investigation was launched, at least 32 complaints were filed in Cook County Circuit Court, in Chicago, alleging that plaintiffs developed cancer from the release of ethylene oxide into the air near the Sterigenics Willowbrook facility in Illinois.

This latest claim also comes about two months after a class action lawsuit was filed in Pennsylvania on behalf of residents living near B. Braun Medical’s Allentown medical device manufacturing and sterilization plant in Allentown.

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