CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- A flurry of lawsuits has been filed this week in Cook County court alleging hundreds of people developed cancer, because of emissions from the Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook.
In the past week, more than 600 lawsuits have been filed against Sterigenics, its parent company Sotera Health and others, for cancers, miscarriages and other health problems caused by the airborne carcinogen, according to the law firm of Romanucci and Blandin LLC., who are representing the victims of toxic ethylene oxide (EtO) emissions in Willowbrook. That was on top of the 73 lawsuits that had already been filed.
While some of these new cases were grouped together, the newly-filed victims’ cases bring the current number of individual cases pending in Cook County, Illinois to more than 700. The cases are filed on behalf of people who lived and worked near the Sterigenics medical sterilization facility, which permanently closed in fall of 2019. Defendants in the lawsuits include Sterigenics U.S., LLC, Sotera Health, Griffith Foods, private equity firm GTCR, LLC, and two managers.
The cases, filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, state Sterigenics and others are responsible for causing leukemia, lymphoma, breast cancers, various other cancers, miscarriages, and other medical conditions that severely changed or ended the lives of so many in that community.
Lead counsel Antonio Romanucci said the reason so many were filed this week is because the statute of limitations was running out.
Sterigenics sterilized medical equipment, and in doing so, it emitted ethylene oxide, eTo, into the air.
"There’s no, no safe amount of eTo that should be breathed in," Romanucci said.
He said Sterigenics released tons of the cancer-causing chemical into the air for years, and now he said, he’s seen whole households of people with cancer and other health conditions.
"When you walk through the house and one person has breast cancer, another one has leukemia, another one’s daughter has had multiple miscarriages. There’s a non-Hodgkins lymphoma," he said.
Romanucci said Willowbrook is in the Top Ten cancer clusters in the country.
“This case is one of the largest and most significant pursuits of justice in the history of Illinois, and indicates the scope of misconduct by Sterigenics and the other defendants over the last three decades. It is heart wrenching to see the number of people and families whose lives were forever changed by the toxic emissions,” Romanucci said
He said each of the nearly 700 cases will be handled individually in court.
Sterigenics responded Friday by saying it is not responsible and will defend itself in court.
“Sterigenics empathizes with anyone battling cancer, but we are confident that operations at our Willowbrook facility are not responsible for causing the illnesses alleged in any lawsuit. As we have stated previously, we intend to vigorously defend against the plaintiffs’ unfounded and meritless claims," a spokesperson said.