If you have ever been a resident of Allentown, PA or a nearby neighborhood, you may have heard of or seen the B.Braun medical product manufacturing plant. However, what you may not have known is that over the last several years of operation, the plant was emitting several thousand pounds of a cancer causing agent into your local air environment. Over a dozen people, including several who have since passed away, have been afflicted with several types of cancer believed to be caused by a gas emission from the B. Braun facility located in Hanover Township. The carcinogenic agent in question is ethylene oxide, which has been coming from the B. Braun manufacturer for years.
If you or a loved one has been affected by these emissions, you may have grounds for a lawsuit, and the attorneys at Kwartler Manus, LLC can help you gain restitution or closure.
What is Ethylene Oxide?
Ethylene Oxide, or EtO, is a colorless gas that can damage DNA, making it an effective sterilizing agent for the facility's medical products. It also accounts for its high cancer-causing activity. It is used primarily to make other chemicals, including antifreeze. It is also used as a pesticide in smaller amounts.
People are mainly exposed to the chemical by inhalation and ingestion, which can occur through occupational, consumer, or environmental exposure. Workers and people who live close to industrial facilities that make use of ethylene oxide can be exposed via emissions from the facilities themselves, or using products that have been sterilized by ethylene oxide.
Moderate exposure to ethylene oxide can cause a variety of symptoms, including:
- Respiratory irritation and lung injury
- Shortness of breath
- Cyanosis, or blueness of the skin caused by de-oxygenation of red blood cells
Prolonged exposure to the chemical can result in:
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
- Lymphocytic leukemia
- Higher risks of breast cancer in women
Why Use Ethylene Oxide?
You may wonder why companies continue to make use of ethylene oxide despite the substantial risks to the health of their employees, consumers and general population surrounding their facilities. A fact sheet from B. Braun’s website states “As noted by the FDA, for many medical devices, including ours, sterilization with ethylene oxide is the only method that effectively sterilizes and does not damage the device during the sterilization process.”
B. Braun also states that the types of cancer rates related to the exposure to EtO in the region around their facility “are comparable to or lower than the rates in other areas of Pennsylvania.”
Why is B. Braun Responsible?
Kline & Specter have revealed in a further investigation, EtO has been emitted from the plant as early as the 1980s. Furthermore, according to data analyzed by the EPA in its National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) report, residents of the communities surrounding the B. Braun plant in Hanover Township near Allentown were 200 times more likely to develop cancer than if they lived elsewhere in the state.
Kline & Specter’s investigation also goes on to show that B. Braun was aware that EtO is dangerous and can cause cancer, yet they did nothing to lower their emissions or warn their workers or nearby residents. In 2014, B. Braun emitted 6,800 pounds of ethylene oxide into the environment. The next highest emitter in the area was St. Luke’s University Hospital, which only emitted 17 pounds that year.
The company once sent a letter to the Lehigh County Fire Department stating that EtO used at their facility was toxic and carcinogenic. It took readings of levels of EtO present in the air around the plant, however it did not save the test results or disclose them to the public. Despite having knowledge of this danger present around their facility, the company still hosted Christmas parties at the plant which were attended by their staff, their families and their children.
How can Kwartler Manus help you?
Many Kwartler Manus, LLC cases have resulted in large monetary resolutions and changes that benefited thousands of citizens. Our attorneys are standing by to provide you with a free case review if you submit the contact form on this page. Call our office at (267) 214-8608, or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation.