Ethylene Oxide Lawsuit | Ethylene Oxide Exposure Risks

Key takeaways:

  • Ethylene Oxide (EtO), used for sterilizing medical equipment, is linked to cancers and other health issues.
  • Legal actions are being considered against those who exposed people to EtO, with potential lawsuit claims for affected individuals.
  • The EPA has issued guidelines to reduce EtO emissions and protect workers in the sterilization industry.

Ethylene Oxide Exposure Linked to Cancer Risk & Other Health Problems

Ethylene Oxide (EtO) gas has been used since the 1950s to sterilize medical devices and medical equipment.

Recent research has found that ethylene oxide gas is linked to cancer and other health problems, signaling new guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce emissions and combat the potential health effects of ethylene oxide.

Exposure to ethylene oxide gas may be linked to:

  • Lymphoma
  • Leukemia
  • Breast cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Blood cancers
  • Reproductive toxicity
  • Birth defects
  • Other severe health issues

Legal action against those responsible for exposing people to ethylene oxide is being investigated.

Ethylene Oxide Lawsuit; Ethylene Oxide Exposure Lawsuit; EtO Exposure Lawsuit; Ethylene Oxide Lawyers; Ethylene Oxide Cancer Lawsuit; Ethylene Oxide Health Risks; Does Ethylene Oxide Cause Cancer

If you or a loved one worked in a sterilization facility or lived nearby a sterilization facility and subsequently developed cancer, you may be eligible to file an Ethylene Oxide Lawsuit claim.

Use the chatbot on this page to find out if you qualify for an Ethylene Oxide Exposure claim.

You can also contact TruLaw for a free consultation.

We are dedicated to helping people injured at no fault of their own seek financial compensation for what they’ve been through.

Reach out to us for more information and to find out if you qualify for an ethylene oxide lawsuit claim.

Table of Contents

What is Ethylene Oxide (EtO)?

Ethylene oxide is a colorless gas commonly used in sterilization processes due to its ability to destroy bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms.

It is widely employed in healthcare facilities particularly to sterilize medical devices and medical equipment.

Ethylene oxide is a highly reactive and flammable gas.

EtO is also commonly used as a precursor in the production of various chemicals, including ethylene glycol, which is used in the manufacturing of polyester fibers and antifreeze.

Despite its effectiveness, ethylene oxide has come under scrutiny due to potential health risks associated with exposure.

What is Ethylene Oxide Used For?

Ethylene oxide has been widely used due to its versatile properties, especially as a sterilizing agent for medical equipment.

Its ability to penetrate various materials and effectively kill microorganisms makes it a valuable tool in ensuring the safety and sterility of medical devices.

The chemical itself was first discovered in 1859 by French chemist Charles-Adolphe Wurtz.

However, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that its sterilization properties were recognized.

In the 1940s, researchers at the Carle Clinic in Urbana, Illinois, conducted pioneering work on the sterilizing capabilities of ethylene oxide, leading to its adoption in the medical field.

Over the years, ethylene oxide has been widely used and refined.

Its applications have expanded beyond sterilization to encompass various industrial processes and chemical manufacturing, making it a crucial compound in numerous industries.

Ethylene Oxide Exposure Health Risks

Exposure to ethylene oxide gas has been found to increase a person’s risk to develop cancer and other serious health problems.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO), has classified ethylene oxide as Group 1, meaning it is classified as carcinogenic to humans.

Similarly, regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP) classify ethylene oxide as a known human carcinogen.

Prolonged or repeated exposure to ethylene oxide may also have reproductive effects, respiratory issues, and neurological impacts.

Occupational settings, where higher concentrations may be encountered, present a greater risk.

It is crucial to understand the potential health risks associated with ethylene oxide and implement appropriate safety measures to minimize exposure.

Ethylene Oxide Cancer Risk

Ethylene Oxide is a known human carcinogen.

Linked to various cancers, ethylene oxide is now known to be a major risk to public health.

People exposed to ethylene oxide for long periods of time have an increased risk to develop cancer.

Cancers linked to ethylene oxide exposure include:

  • Lymphoma
  • Leukemia
  • Breast cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Blood cancers
  • Other cancers of white blood cells

The full scope of carcinogenic risks from exposure to ethylene oxide is not known and more research is being done on the effects of chronic exposure to the chemical.

Ethylene Oxide Side Effects: Acute Exposure Symptoms

People exposed to ethylene oxide may experience short-term adverse health effects.

People exposed to toxic EtO gas may experience the following symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Eye and skin burns
  • Frostbite
  • Reproductive problems

Research on Exposure to Ethylene Oxide and Subsequent Health Problems

Scientific studies on the health effects of ethylene oxide date back decades.

The scientific community, along with influential and governmental health and environmental regulators have known about the health risks of EtO exposure for quite some time.

Several agencies and institutions have labeled EtO as a probable human carcinogen, with occupational exposure as a particular area of concern.

Even acute exposures to ethylene oxide gas can result in minor to severe health issues.

World Health Organization (WHO) Literature on Ethylene Oxide Exposure

The World Heath Organization (WHO) has long identified the risks associated with ethylene oxide.

WHO reports and studies on ethylene oxide:

Other Scientific Studies on Ethylene Oxide Exposure and Health Effects

The body of research linking ethylene oxide exposure to cancer and other adverse health effects is sizable.

The following studies conducted over the past 30+ years speak to the dangers posed by EtO exposure:

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Guidance on EtO Sterilization Emissions

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released updated guidance on Ethylene Oxide emissions.

The new guidance outlines the dangers of human exposure to ethylene oxide and provides guidelines for occupational safety and the use of personal protective equipment.

In April 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency issued three proposals to reduce health risks for workers and surrounding communities of sterilization facilities:

  1. Reducing EtO Emissions from Chemical Plants
  2. Reducing EtO Emissions from Commercial Sterilizers
  3. Reducing Risk to Workers in the Sterilization Industry

In an effort to lower air pollution, the EPA proposed updates to regulations governing plants involved in the production of synthetic organic chemicals, polymers, and resins.

This proposal, known as the Hazardous Organic NESHAP (HON), would lead to a significant reduction of various air toxics, including EtO.

It is estimated that once fully implemented, this rule would decrease EtO emissions by 63%, resulting in a reduction of 58 tons per year.

The EPA has also proposed stricter emission standards for commercial sterilizers, both existing and new ones, across the country.

If finalized, these updated requirements would result in an 80% reduction in EtO emissions from commercial sterilizers.

The aim is to bring the emissions down to levels below the benchmark set by the Clean Air Act, effectively reducing the risk to nearby communities.

To enhance worker safety and protect communities near sterilization facilities, the EPA proposed comprehensive protections under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.

These measures would benefit workers involved in sterilization processes using EtO, as well as individuals living, working, or attending school near such facilities.

The objective is to minimize the risks associated with EtO exposure in various settings.

Ethylene Oxide Exposure Lawsuits: Do You Qualify?

Ethylene Oxide Lawsuits would aim to hold companies liable for adverse health effects of ethylene oxide emissions.

Repeated exposure to ethylene oxide has been found to increase cancer risk, impact the nervous system, cause respiratory irritation, and other health problems.

If you or a loved one were exposed to ethylene oxide and subsequently developed cancer or other medical problems, you may be eligible to file an Ethylene Oxide claim.

Contact TruLaw for a free consultation.

You can also use the chatbot on this page for a free and instant case evaluation.

In the event of an ethylene oxide litigation, your lawyer will help you complete the necessary steps to file a claim and seek compensation.

These steps include gathering evidence and assessing damages.

Gathering Evidence for Ethylene Oxide Exposure Lawsuits

Evidence is extremely important in cases involving harmful chemical exposure.

While ethylene oxide lawsuits are still being strategized, there are certain types of evidence that are generally present in chemical exposure cases.

Evidence in an ethylene oxide lawsuit may include:

  • Medical records
  • Employment records
  • Residential records
  • Air quality tests
  • Doctor’s notes
  • Any other evidence proving exposed to ethylene oxide and subsequent health problems

Even though your attorney will help you gather evidence for your case, you can help by beginning to gather and retain any evidence you have access to.

Assessing Damages in Ethylene Oxide Lawsuits

In the event of an ethylene oxide litigation, damages would refer to the total amount of losses related to ethylene oxide exposure and related health problems.

Damages in a potential ethylene oxide lawsuit may include:

  • Medical bills
  • Future medical expenses
  • Lost wages or earning ability
  • Permanent disability
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional damages
  • Lost quality of life
  • Loss of consortium
  • Wrongful death
  • Other compensatory and punitive damages

Every case is different and each individual client’s circumstances influence the damages able to be claimed in an ethylene oxide lawsuit.

Your attorney will help you assess and calculate total damages in your case.

TruLaw: Your Ethylene Oxide Exposure Lawyers

Hazardous air pollutants like ethylene oxide pose a severe risk to workers and communities across the United States.

If you were exposed to ethylene oxide and subsequently developed cancer or other related health issues, you may be eligible to file an ethylene oxide lawsuit claim.

Use the chatbot on this page to find out if you qualify to file a claim.

You can also contact TruLaw for a free consultation.

We are here to help you through the legal process and our team is investigating the risks of chronic exposure to the harmful chemical ethylene oxide (EtO).

Reach out to us for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Where is Ethylene Oxide Found?

    Ethylene oxide (EO) can be found in various sources, typically in healthcare and industrial settings.

    Here are some common sources of ethylene oxide:

    • Sterilization and Disinfection:  Ethylene oxide is widely used for the sterilization of medical equipment, such as surgical instruments, catheters, and syringes. It is also employed for the sterilization of certain food products, spices, and cosmetics. Ethylene oxide’s ability to penetrate packaging materials makes it effective in killing microorganisms.
    • Industrial Production:  Ethylene oxide is often produced industrially through the direct oxidation of ethylene, a hydrocarbon compound derived from petroleum or natural gas. Large-scale production facilities produce ethylene oxide, which is then utilized as a raw material for the manufacturing of various products such as ethylene glycol.
    • Fumigation:  Ethylene oxide is utilized as a fumigant for certain heat-sensitive materials, such as spices, tobacco, and cocoa beans. It helps to eliminate pests, insects, and microorganisms that may be present in these products.
    • Chemical Intermediates:  Ethylene oxide is a vital intermediate in the production of various chemicals and materials. It is used to manufacture ethylene glycol, which is utilized in the production of polyester fibers, antifreeze, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastics. Ethylene oxide is also employed in the production of surfactants, solvents, and detergents.

  • Is Ethylene Oxide the Only Method for Medical Device Sterilization?

    Despite ethylene oxide’s widespread use, it is not the only available chemical used to sterilize medical equipment.

    According the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), medical supplies can be sterilized using a number of techniques, including:

    • Ethylene oxide gas
    • Moist heat (steam)
    • Dry heat
    • Radiation
    • Vaporized hydrogen peroxide
    • Chlorine dioxide gas
    • Vaporized peracetic acid
    • Nitrogen dioxide

    CDC guidelines state that medical devices and medical supplies that come into contact with body tissues or fluids are considered “critical items”, and sterile medical devices are essential for the health and safety of patients.

  • What Health Problems are Associated with Exposure to Ethylene Oxide?

    Health problems associated with EtO exposure are still being studied, but several scientific and medical agencies have labeled the chemical as highly dangerous and a human carcinogen.

    Ethylene oxide may be linked to:

    • Lymphoma
    • Leukemia
    • Breast cancer
    • Stomach cancer
    • Blood cancers
    • Other cancers of white blood cells
    • Reproductive toxicity
    • Birth defects
    • Potentially other severe health problems

  • Does Ethylene Oxide Cause Cancer?

    Yes, ethylene oxide (EtO) has been classified as a known human carcinogen.

    Repeated or long-term exposure to ethylene oxide has been associated with an increased risk of developing cancer.

  • Who is at Risk of Exposure to Ethylene Oxide?

    Employee exposure to ethylene oxide emissions is the most common and dangerous route of exposure.

    Employees may have direct contact with the toxic substances and are consequently at a higher risk for adverse health effects of ethylene oxide gas.

    Those at an increased risk for adverse health effects of ethylene oxide include:

    • Employees of sterilization facilities
    • Hospital workers
    • Workers exposed through transportation or disposal of medical devices
    • Others working in or around commercial sterilization facilities
    • Factory workers in plants using ethylene oxide in chemical manufacturing
    • Farm workers exposed through using ethylene oxide to kill insects

    Surrounding communities near industrial facilities that emit ethylene oxide gas may also be at risk.

    Long term exposure to toxic EtO gas may be extremely dangerous.

  • Where in the United States is Ethylene Oxide Sterilization Used?

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a state-by-state list of all ethylene oxide commercial sterilization facilities.

    States, cities and municipalities that are home to commercial sterilization facilities include:

    • Arizona (AZ)
      • Chandler
      • Phoenix
    • Arkansas (AR)
      • Mountain Home
    • California (CA)
      • Aliso Viejo
      • Brea
      • Carson
      • Irvine
      • Los Angeles
      • Novato
      • Ontario
      • Riverside
      • Sacramento
      • San Diego
      • Sylmar
      • Temecula
    • Colorado (CO)
      • Arvada
      • Boulder
      • Lakewood
      • Loveland
    • Connecticut (CT)
      • North Haven
    • Florida (FL)
      • Ave Maria
      • Fort Myers
      • Groveland
      • Jacksonville
      • Temple Terrace
    • Georgia (GA)
      • Atlanta
      • Augusta
      • Covington
      • Madison
    • Iowa (IA)
      • Grimes
    • Illinois (IL)
      • Waukegan
    • Indiana (IN)
      • Ellettsville
    • Massachusetts (MA)
      • Northborough
      • Taunton
    • Maryland (MD)
      • Hampstead
      • Hanover
      • Jessup
      • Salisbury
    • Minnesota (MN)
      • Arden Hills
      • Coon Rapids
      • Fridley
    • Missouri (MO)
      • Jackson
      • North Kansas City
    • North Carolina (NC)
      • Charlotte
      • Morrisville
    • Nebraska (NE)
      • Columbus
    • Nevada (NV)
      • Sparks
    • New Hampshire (NH)
      • Somersworth
    • New Jersey (NJ)
      • Franklin
      • Linden
      • South Plainfield
    • New Mexico (NM)
      • Santa Teresa
    • New York (NY)
      • Hauppauge
      • Queensbury
    • Ohio (OH)
      • Tiffin
    • Oklahoma (OK)
      • Ardmore
    • Pennsylvania (PA)
      • Allentown
      • Erie
      • Zelienople
    • Puerto Rico (PR)
      • Añasco
      • Arecibo
      • Dorado
      • Fajardo
      • Juncos
      • Salinas
      • Villalba
    • Rhode Island (RI)
      • Coventry
    • South Carolina (SC)
      • Spartanburg
    • South Dakota (SD)
      • Brookings
    • Tennessee (TN)
      • Memphis
      • New Tazewell
    • Texas (TX)
      • Athens
      • El Paso
      • Grand Prairie
      • Houston
      • Laredo
      • San Angelo
    • Utah (UT)
      • Salt Lake City
      • Sandy
    • Virginia (VA)
      • Richmond
      • Henrico
      • Virginia Beach
    • West Virginia (WV)
      • Lesage

Written By:
Jessie Paluch
Jessie Paluch

Experienced Attorney & Legal SaaS CEO

With over 25 years of legal experience, Jessie is an Illinois lawyer, a CPA, and a mother of three.  She spent the first decade of her career working as an international tax attorney at Deloitte.

In 2009, Jessie co-founded her own law firm with her husband – which has scaled to over 30 employees since its conception.

In 2016, Jessie founded TruLaw, which allows her to collaborate with attorneys and legal experts across the United States on a daily basis. This hypervaluable network of experts is what enables her to share reliable legal information with her readers!

Camp Lejeune Lawsuit

Camp Lejeune’s water contamination issue spanned several decades starting in the 1950s. Exposure to these chemicals has been linked to various serious health issues, including cancer, organ diseases, and death.

Tylenol Lawsuit

Research is increasingly suggesting a link between the use of Tylenol during pregnancy and the development of neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism and ADHD, in infants.

AFFF Lawsuit

Legal action is being taken against manufacturers of Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF), a chemical used in fighting fires. The plaintiffs allege that exposure to the foam caused health issues such as cancer, organ damage, and birth and fertility issues.

Do You
Have A Case?

Here, at TruLaw, we’re committed to helping victims get the justice they deserve.

Alongside our partner law firms, we have successfully collected over $3 Billion in verdicts and settlements on behalf of injured individuals.

Would you like our help?

Helpful Sites & Resources