Colorado Ethylene Oxide Exposure Attorneys
Justice for Victims of DNA-Damaging Chemical Used in Lakewood Facility
Government studies have found that people who live in a 20-mile radius of Lakewood, CO may be at a high risk of developing cancer due to exposure to a chemical known as ethylene oxide (EtO).
Terumo BCT, a company that manufactures medical devices, uses EtO during the process of sterilizing some of their products. Emissions from Terumo BCT’s Lakewood facility have been linked to cancer, as well as several other severe health issues.
The Denver personal injury lawyers with Zaner Harden Law may be able to help you file a lawsuit if you’re a Lakewood resident who has been diagnosed with cancer. If you would like to know if you’re eligible to take legal action, please call (720) 613-9706 or contact us online for a free consultation.
What is ETO, and why do companies use it?
EtO, which is also known as oxirane and dimethylene oxide, is a pesticide designed to kill microbes that can contaminate medical equipment. It’s estimated that half of all medical devices used in the U.S. are treated with the chemical every year.
This colorless, odorless gas is also used in the manufacture of several types of products, including detergents, antifreeze, plastics and others.
One of the 25-most produced chemicals in the U.S., processing plants generated approximately 6.4 billion pounds of EtO in 2018 alone – and demand was only expected to grow. There were at least 106 facilities in 34 states that either produce EtO, process it, or use the chemical.
Plaintiffs in EtO lawsuits against Terumo BCT are alleging the company either new, or should have known, that its Lakewood facility was releasing dangerously high levels of the chemical into the surrounding community.
According to air monitoring tests performed by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE), emissions from the facility can lead to a substantially increased risk of cancer.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established an “acceptable” cancer risk range of 1-100 cases per million people. This basically means that if 1 million people were constantly exposed to EtO every minute of the day for 70 years, it’s expected that 100 of them would develop cancer.
Many studies of the ambient air around the facility have found that the increased risk of cancer as a result of the EtO in the air far exceeds the acceptable risk set by the EPA.
An ethylene oxide attorney with Zaner Harden Law can work to make those responsible for your cancer diagnosis accountable for their actions. Get in touch with us as soon as you can to learn more.
ETO is Linked to Dozens of Illnesses and Health Conditions
Most people are exposed to EtO through the inhalation of fumes. Long-term exposure could significantly increase the risk of developing a wide range of health issues, including the following:
EtO is classified as a known human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Studies indicate that exposure to the chemical may lead to the development of several forms of cancer, including lymphohematopoietic and other types of hematopoietic cancers, lymphocytic leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, pediatric lymphoma, and myeloma. Women may also be more prone to developing breast cancer.
Scientists examined cancer mortality rates for workers exposed to EtO in several different facilities where medical equipment sterilization took place. They found that the higher the level of their exposure, the more likely they were to die from not only breast cancer, but also leukemia and lymphoma.
Researchers believe that EtO makes it more difficult for the body to be able to replicate DNA, and also to build proteins. The chemical binds to DNA, and this leads to mutations that make cells no longer able to produce proteins.
Most of the time, cells can identify and adjust to the sudden changes that some chemical can cause. However, they’re unable to do this in response to EtO.
Among the cells that can’t adjust to the changes associated with EtO are epithelial and stromal cells. Epithelial cells line the blood vessels, while stromal cells are found in the body’s organs. When EtO causes alterations in epithelial and stromal breast cells, that can lead to the development of breast cancer.
Adverse Birth Outcomes
There is also a link between EtO inhalation and birth complications. According to one study, women who were employed in hospitals that used EtO to sterilize medical devices were at a substantially higher risk for not only spontaneous abortion but also the loss of pregnancy, when compared to women who were not exposed to the chemical.
Exposure to EtO has also been linked to not only birth defects, but also neurological disorders. Exposure in men may also have a direct impact on their reproductive system.
EtO exposure can also lead to several different types of neurological problems, including loss of memory and coordination issues. Researchers found that workers exposed to high levels of EtO for a period of between 5-6.5 years showed much higher levels of motor and cognitive impairment than others who did not experience exposure.
Exposure to EtO might also increase the chances of suffering irritation of the sinuses and nasal cavity, difficulty breathing, constriction of the bronchial tubes and wheezing.
Terumo BCT: The Likely Source of Denver’s ETO Levels
Terumo is a successor corporation to a line of companies that have been in Lakewood since 1967 and have been polluting Ethylene Oxide into the Lakewood community since the 1970s.
The second plant was built in 2000 in the heart of Lakewood, surrounded by schools, day cares, and homes. When the results of the first ambient air samples ever taken outside the facility were disclosed to the public in 2018, the CDPHE found highly elevated levels of EtO.
For some exposure points, the EtO in the air increased the cancer risk by 4xto 56x the acceptable risk as determined by the CDPHE. Terumo immediately installed additional pollution control devices but samples taken by CDPHE after those devices were installed showed risk levels still above the CDPHE acceptable risk level.
Zaner Harden Law is one of the premier ethylene oxide exposure law firms in the nation. If we you have developed one of the cancers discussed above and live, work, or play in the community surrounding Terumo, we may be able to help you obtain significant compensation for your injuries.
A Dozen Lawsuits Have Already Been Filed Against Terumo BCT
Several people have enlisted the services of ethylene oxide law firms in an attempt to do just that. That case is currently being litigated in Jefferson County District Court. Zaner Harden Law represents a Colorado man who attended Lakewood High School and often rode his bike at Sunset Park (which is located across the street from Terumo).
He developed acute lymphobastiuc leukemia and we have alleged it was caused by the excessive EtO emissions coming from Terumo BCT’s Lakewood property. The disease eventually resulted in his lower left leg being amputated.
How an Ethylene Oxide Attorney Can Help
If you have received a cancer diagnosis, and you live or work in the Lakewood, CO area, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against those responsible for your exposure to EtO. Talk to an ethylene oxide lawyer with Zaner Harden Law to find out if you may have grounds to file an EtO emissions lawsuit.
A Zaner Harden Law ethylene oxide lawyer could help you obtain the compensation you need in order to help pay for not only your medical bills, but other expenses related to your health issues. These expenses are known as “damages,” and come in one of two forms – economic and non-economic.
Economic damages are tangible, supported by bills, invoices, pay stubs and other documentation. Examples include the following:
- Medical bills – Exposure to EtO will often result in having to visit a medical facility. It can also lead to long-term consequences that require years of treatment, as well as the use of prescription medications. You may be able to obtain compensation that will not only pay for your current medical care, but whatever additional treatment you may need in the future.
- Lost wages – Anyone diagnosed with a severe disease will very likely not be able to work – possibly for the rest of their life. You might be able to not only receive money for your present-day earnings, but also any future potential income you might lose. This includes raises or bonuses you could have earned.
Non-economic damages are more subjective, and harder to prove as a result. This is one of the many reasons it will be so important to work with an experienced ethylene oxide attorney as soon as possible. These are just a couple of examples of non-economic damages:
- Pain and suffering – Exposure to EtO can result in a great deal of physical misery. While this isn’t necessarily considered to be a “financial hardship,” you may still be able to receive compensation. After all, you wouldn’t be experiencing that pain and suffering if the exposure had not happened.
- Emotional distress – Any cancer diagnosis – or a diagnosis of any other life-altering health issue, for that matter – is obviously going to lead to an incredible amount of emotional distress and mental anguish. You may be able to obtain compensation for your emotional trauma as well.
- Physical Impairment and Disfigurement – This category of damages in Colorado is uncapped and relates directly to when a person loses the use (or partial use) of a body part or body system.
How is ETO regulated?
There are EPA regulations that pertain to EtO emissions, but the agency is in the process of determining whether their rules need to be strengthened. One of the issues associated with doing so is that there are many types of medical devices that can only be sterilized by being treated with the chemical.
As of this writing, the EPA was in the process of determining how to better mitigate the health risks of EtO exposure.
Clean Air Act – Air Toxics Rule
“Air toxics” are basically pollutants that, when present in sufficient concentrations, can cause cancer and other severe health issues. They can also harm the environment. They come in three main forms:
- Gases (including EtO)
- Liquid aerosols (such as dry cleaning agents and industrial solvents)
- Particles (including mercury, lead and hydrocarbons produced through the burning of waste and fossil fuels)
The EPA’s Clean Air Act was created in 1970, and then underwent major revisions in 1977, and again in 1990. The purpose of the Act is to establish standards for the emission of air toxics as well as other pollutants. Fines for violating the Act can be as much as $103,000 per day, per violation – and penalties can also include jail time.
Lakewood’s ETO Emissions Reached Nearly 20 Times the Acceptable Limit
Terumo BCT emissions of EtO were as high as 3.57 parts per billion, according to CDPHE testing results. As alleged in the complaint, over the last 20 years, Terumo has made decisions on how to best “control” their emissions. This included allowing the back vents from the actual sterilization chamber back vents to pollute ETO directly into the atmosphere uncontrolled until 2018.
Officials Have Known of the Risk for Years
The problem is the company didn’t take this step until 2018 – nearly 50 years after Terumo BCT first opened the Lakewood facility as alleged in the complaint. It is very likely EtO emissions were unacceptably high for decades, endangering the entire Lakewood community in the process.
Children May Be at a Higher Risk of Developing ETO-Related Cancer
As much of a risk at EtO exposure could be for adults, it could be even more pronounced for children. The reason, according to researchers, is because EtO affects DNA – children who are still developing are at a greater danger as a result.
Since their cells divide faster, the chances they’ll develop cancer are higher. A person’s risk of cancer after a single year of exposure to EtO will be more if that exposure took place when they were a child.
Where Companies and Local Governments Fail to Protect Communities, the Law Steps In.
Terumo continues to operate and release of EtO into the atmosphere. As recently as August 2022, the EPA released a new report on the risk levels around Terumo based on Terumo’s own EPA reporting and found the levels of EtO continue to be higher than the acceptable risk.
Only civil justice attorneys like Zaner Harden law can hold Terumo accountable and stop the company from continuing to endanger the community.
An ethylene oxide attorney with Zaner Harden Law is ready to tell you more about how we may be able to help if your cancer diagnosis can be linked to EtO exposure. Schedule a free case review by contacting us online or calling 720-594-6256.
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