Ethylene Oxide Exposure

Ethylene Oxide Poisoning Lawyers in Memphis

Cancer and other fatal illnesses may be linked to EtO emissions by Sterilization Services of Tennessee

If you are a South Memphis resident who lives and/or works near Sterilization Services of Tennessee, and you have developed a serious or life-threatening illness, Bailey & Greer, PLLC wants to help. We are currently representing victims and their families in lawsuits that allege exposure to ethylene oxide is the direct cause of their illnesses and subsequent harms, including diminished quality of life, reduced life expectancy, and substantial financial burdens brought on by their illnesses. Call our injury lawyers in Memphis to learn how we can help.

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What is ethylene oxide (EtO)?

Ethylene oxide (EtO) is “a flammable, colorless gas used to make chemicals,” largely ethylene glycol – a toxic compound used in the manufacturer of everything from ball point pens to brake fluid to cosmetics. Its other primary use is in the sterilization of medical devices.

What is Sterilization Services of Tennessee?

Sterilization Services of Tennessee uses EtO to sterilize medical equipment. It opened in 1976 and has been (legally) releasing ethylene oxide into the air ever since. At the end of April 2024, it will shut down this facility and move to a new facility outside of Memphis.

How do you get exposed to ethylene oxide?

Ethylene oxide is released into the air, so most folks will breathe in the compound. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says the following about EtO exposure:

  • Workers may be exposed to EtO if they work in places where EtO is produced or used, such as chemical plants and commercial or hospital sterilizers. These workers potentially have higher-than-average exposure.
  • People who live near facilities that release EtO to the outdoor air may be exposed to EtO, depending on how much EtO is released and how close they live to the facility, among other factors.
  • It is unlikely that EtO would remain in or on food or remain dissolved in water long enough to be eaten or swallowed.
  • There also is limited information on levels of EtO at hazardous waste sites - in air, water, or soil. This makes it difficult to determine how likely it is that someone might be exposed to EtO at or near these sites.

Per updated analysis released by the EPA in 2022:

ethylene oxide (EtO) emissions from some commercial sterilizers in the U.S. contribute to elevated cancer risk for people living in nearby communities. Specifically, exposure over the course of a lifetime (24 hours a day for 70 years) to EtO at concentrations expected to be found near some commercial sterilizers can increase a person’s risk of developing cancer to at or above 100 in one million.

In 2016, the EPA “published its IRIS risk assessment that determined that EtO was up to 60 times more toxic than previously understood” (emphasis ours).

Ethylene oxide and the risk of cancer

The greatest exposure risk of ethylene oxide is an increased risk of cancer. In 2016, the EPA reported a link between chronic and/or long-term ethylene oxide exposure and cancers such as:

  • Breast cancers (multiple)
  • Myeloma
  • Kidney cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Brain cancer
  • Lymphomas
  • Leukemia
  • Lung cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Uterine cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Soft-tissue sarcoma (connective tissue cancer)

Long-term EtO exposure can damage a person’s DNA; this is why exposure can lead to cancer. These cancers can be fatal, which means long-term exposure to ethylene oxide can be terminal.

What other injuries and illnesses are caused by ethylene oxide?

Ethylene oxide exposure can also lead to respiratory diseases and conditions like emphysema, as well as conditions like memory loss, numbness, irritation of the eyes and skin, and more.

Since 2016, the EPA has recognized a potential link between EtO exposure and an increased rate of miscarriages. Based on data from animal studies, EtO may also lead to “decreased number of implantation sites, decreased testicular weights and sperm concentration, and testicular degeneration.”

In 2022, the U.S. Department of Health and Human services analyzed the effects of long-term EtO exposure on workers, and recounted “clinical signs of neurotoxicity (e.g., neuropathy, weakness in extremities, impaired hand-eye coordination, cognitive dysfunction, memory loss, headache, lethargy) were reported among workers exposed to ethylene oxide for various durations. Sural nerve biopsies revealed axonal degeneration and regeneration in two studies.” Axonal degeneration and regeneration are most often found in conjunction with neurological conditions such as stroke or MS.

What can be done to reduce/eliminate ethylene oxide exposure?

The EPA believes it can reduce EtO emissions as well as the number of people who develop cancer because of EtO poisoning. On April 5, 2023, stronger National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for Ethylene Oxide Commercial Sterilizers went into effect. The Agency claims “This action will result in an over 90 percent reduction in EtO emissions nationwide from commercial sterilizers.”

This is fine for future generations, especially in South Memphis – but it doesn’t help people who have already developed life-threatening and DNA-altering diseases because of ethylene oxide exposure and poisoning.

What should I do if I think I’ve been exposed to ethylene oxide in Memphis?

If you believe you have been exposed to ethylene oxide, you should speak with your doctor as soon as possible. Short-term exposure can stull cause irritation of the skin and respiratory system, so you want to ensure you get a diagnosis and then take steps to reduce your risk of future exposure, if you can.

If you live in South Memphis near Sterilization Services of Tennessee (located on Florida Street), if you worked for Sterilization Services of Tennessee, or if you spent time in this area for any reason at all (including working nearby), you should speak with your doctor about the potential exposure you faced. It is possible that the medical conditions you have were a direct result of EtO exposure and/or poisoning.

If you have been exposed to ethylene oxide and have been diagnosed with cancer or another long-term or potentially terminal condition, we hope you will call Bailey & Greer. Our Memphis injury lawyers have years of experience handling toxic tort claims. We want to help.

Is Sterilization Services of Tennessee liable for EtO exposure?

Over the past eight years, the EPA has released several reports and analyses regarding the potential dangers, specifically the cancer risks, of EtO exposure. In 2022, it published a list of facilities that could be contributing to higher rates of cancer in their communities; Sterilization Services of Tennessee was on that list.

Can I file a lawsuit for ethylene oxide exposure?

You may be eligible to file an individual lawsuit, or to join a class action lawsuit, against Sterilization Services of Tennessee if you meet one of the following two conditions:

Filing a claim for yourself

  1. Your lived and/or worked in the facility or within a certain radius of the facility, and
  2. You developed cancer or another medical condition that has been linked to chronic ethylene oxide exposure.

Filing a claim for the death of a loved one

  1. Your loved one lived and/or worked in the facility or within a certain radius of the facility, and
  2. Your loved one developed cancer or another medical condition that has been linked to chronic ethylene oxide exposure, which ultimately led to his or her death.

What damages can I seek in a Memphis ethylene oxide exposure lawsuit?

The risk assessment company Verisk reports that in 2023, more than $700 million was paid out in ethylene oxide cases, most of which filed against commercial sterilizing companies like Sterilization Services of Tennessee. While we cannot and would not ever promise a specific outcome to any client, we do think it’s worth noting that juries are holding these companies accountable for the poisons they leak into the air.

That accountability comes in the form of damages – compensation for losses like:

  • Medical bills and expenses
  • Lost income (including wages, benefits, retirement contributions, and so forth) and loss of earning potential
  • Physical and emotional pain and suffering, including loss of enjoyment of life
  • Funeral and burial costs (when applicable)
  • Loss of services (costs associated with housekeeping, education, etc.)
  • Loss of marital companionship (when applicable)
Thomas Greer Memphis Personal Injury Lawyer

Do you have an ethylene oxide exposure lawyer near me?

Bailey & Greer is located at 6256 Poplar Ave in Memphis and has served the community since 1986. We have been on the forefront of toxic exposure claims for decades. If you are too ill to travel to us, we can schedule a phone or video consultation, and we make hospital visits.

Memphis injury lawyers holding companies accountable for poisoning communities

Long-term exposure to ethylene oxide can lead to several life-threatening illnesses and has been linked to multiple cancers. At Bailey & Greer, we fight for our community; let us fight for your family, too. Please call us or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation with an injury lawyer from our firm.

Bailey & Greer Team