Sterigenics Lawsuit Goes Before Jury Over Medical Sterilization Plant Pollution

More than 700 Sterigenics lawsuits have been filed over claims the company knowingly released toxic chemicals into the air near its facilities in Illinois and Georgia.

Trial is underway in a Sterigenics lawsuit over ethylene oxide leaks from an Illinois manufacturing plant, which is the first of several hundred complaints that allege the company knowingly released toxic chemicals into the atmosphere, endangering residents living near its facilities.

The lawsuit was brought by Sue Kamuda, who claims that the releases of the gas used to sterilize medical equipment caused her to develop breast cancer. The plant in Willowbrook, Illinois, where the leaks occurred, was shut down permanently in 2019, following complaints from residents.

Jury selection began on Thursday in Cook Count Circuit Court, and opening arguments are expected to begin today.

The case is one of more than 700 similar Sterigenics lawsuits filed since 2019 over problems at plants. In addition to the Willowbrook leaks, the company also faces claims of injuries arising from similar releases from a facility in Atlanta.

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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.

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 serious and potentially life-threatening injuries.

Sterigenics officials have said the plants are not responsible for the illnesses alleged in the ethylene oxide lawsuits. However, the Sterigenics leaks in Georgia were only discovered after a newspaper investigation tipped off state regulators. And critics have accused Sterigenics of knowing about the leaks and trying to hide them.

In 2019, the FDA raised concerns that the leaks and plant closures would result in a shortage of certain sterilized medical devices.

The FDA called on device manufacturers and health care providers to warn the agency on potential shortages before they happen. The agency can be notified by users, patients, manufacturers, or anyone within the supply chain of a problem through its device shortages mailbox.

2 Comments

  • TannerFebruary 15, 2023 at 7:00 pm

    Trying to find eligibility for Sterigenics law sue

  • GwendolynSeptember 20, 2022 at 11:26 pm

    My daughter lived in willowbrook and got cancer in the breast and had both of them removed. When people first started the lawsuit I reached out to a lawyer representing a suit. We were told she didn’t live close enough to the company to continue with a lawsuit. Her cancer was not due to family it due to inviruement

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