You may assume that the air you breathe, the products you use, and the water that you drink are all safe; this is a reasonable assumption. However, the truth is that all of the above could be quite dangerous – chemicals and toxins permeate everything from the air in our homes and atmosphere to our soil, drinking water, and more. 

One of the most dangerous chemicals that has been linked to adverse health events in humans is that of ethylene oxide. Used by at least 36 industrial firms in the United States, ethylene oxide could be poisoning you and your family. If you believe that you have developed cancer or another serious health condition as a result of exposure to ethylene oxide, our lawyer at the office of MG Law is ready to aggressively advocate for you.

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What Is Ethylene Oxide?

Ethylene oxide is a flammable, colorless gas that is used in several industrial firms nationwide. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), ethylene oxide is used in the production of:

  • Antifreeze;
  • Solvents;
  • Pharmaceuticals;
  • Adhesives;
  • Detergents;
  • Textiles; and
  • Polyurethane foam. 

In addition to being used in the production of the above materials, ethylene oxide can also be found in sterilants for spices and cosmetics, sterilization of surgical equipment, and fumigants. 

Exposure to ethylene oxide can be dangerous. The dangers of exposure will be discussed in more detail below. 

How Ethylene Oxide Exposure Occurs

If you don’t work in an industrial firm that manufacturers one of the above products, then you may assume that you are safe from ethylene oxide exposure. However, this is not necessarily the case. While it is true that workers in the above manufacturing and production industries are indeed at an increased risk of exposure, exposure can occur in other ways, too.

To be sure, companies and industrial firms that use ethylene oxide in production may emit this toxin into the air, contaminating the air for surrounding persons and communities. In fact, a report published by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2018 identified 109 census tracts nationwide that are at an increased risk of cancer due to airborne toxin exposure of ethylene oxide. 

Connection Between Ethylene Oxide, Cancer, and Other Adverse Health Events

As stated above, exposure to ethylene oxide can be extremely dangerous. It is associated with numerous serious illnesses, including cancer. The same OSHA publication that is cited above states that potential adverse health events of ethylene oxide exposure include:

  • Eye pain;
  • Sore throat;
  • Difficult breathing;
  • Blurred vision;
  • Dizziness;
  • Nausea;
  • Headache;
  • Convulsions;
  • Blisters;
  • Vomiting;
  • Coughing;
  • Leukemia and other cancers; 
  • Spontaneous abortion;
  • Genetic damage;
  • Nerve damage;
  • Peripheral paralysis;
  • Muscle weakness;
  • Impaired thinking; and
  • Impaired memory.

There are two metro Atlanta communities in particular that have suffered extraordinarily from ethylene oxide exposure: Smyrna and Covington.

According to the same EPA report cited above, and described in an article published by 11 Alive, the EPA considers it unacceptable for a community to have 100 extra incidences of cancer per 1 million people exposed (to ethylene oxide). In Smyrna, the cancer rate following ethylene oxide exposure was 114 additional cases of cancer; in Covington, there were more than 200 additional cases of cancer reported. This has resulted in the issue being referred to as the “Covington cancer cluster.” The Covington area exposure is the result of operations at the Becton Dickinson (BD) Bard plant. 

Perhaps most shocking about the issue is not that ethylene oxide is dangerous or that cancer rates have skyrocketed in communities where ethylene oxide exposure has occurred, but that officials have known about the risks of ethylene oxide exposure for decades, yet people in communities living close to ethylene oxide-emitting facilities are being exposed to the toxin at concentrations up to 14 times higher than studies suggest are safe. 

What You Can Do to Protect Your Health and Your Family

If you live within a mile of an ethylene oxide-emitting plant, you and your family members may also be at risk of increased ethylene oxide exposure and related health concerns. Workers who work with ethylene oxide often use face masks and respirators to decrease contamination. For those who live near an industrial firm, it’s important that you make your concerns known. Start collaborating with your neighbors to raise attention, and reach out to your city council members. If you think that you have been exposed, be sure to seek healthcare immediately – the sooner that you get a diagnosis, the better your chances are of beating your illness. 

You should also contact an experienced environmental law and toxic tort lawyer immediately. A lawyer can help you to understand your rights and options, and hold the at-fault party responsible for the harm you have suffered. 

Do You Have a Toxic Tort?

If you live in an area where ethylene oxide levels are high and you have been diagnosed with a serious health condition, such as cancer, you may be able to hold BD Bard (or another party) liable for the harm that you have suffered. You will need to prove that your disease or condition is a direct result of your exposure, which will take the help of experts. 

If you can prove that your cancer or other health condition would not have developed but for unsafe levels of ethylene oxide exposure, and you can prove that the company in question knew of the hazards of ethylene oxide exposure yet failed to act to prevent contamination, you can hold the company liable for the full extent of your economic and noneconomic losses. 

How Our Experienced Toxic Tort Lawyers Can Help You

In order to bring forth a successful toxic tort claim, you’ll need a skilled attorney on your side who has the resources your case demands. Various experts will need to be called in, a thorough investigation must be conducted, and you can be certain that BD Bard will have excellent attorneys on its side. When you call the office of MG Law, you even the playing field.

We believe that companies should be held liable for the harm that they cause to community members and others. If you’ve been diagnosed with a condition that you believe is related to your exposure to ethylene oxide, please call our law firm today for a free consultation. We can also assist you if you believe that you have a separate toxic tort or environmental law case. 


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