2 suburban plants release cancer-causing chemical into air: lawsuit

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WAUKEGAN, Ill. — Two suburban plants that use the same cancer-causing chemical as the Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook are now also facing lawsuits.

Four lawsuits were filed Wednesday in Cook County against both Vantage in Gurnee and Medline in Waukegan.

All four lawsuits accuse Medline and Vantage from knowingly endangering peoples lives by releasing too much of the cancer-causing chemical ethylene oxide into the air.

Kathleen Koch is one of the plaintiffs. She had a breast cancer tumor in October 2014. Her doctor said it was triple negative tumor, which means it was non-hormonal and environmentally induced. She is cancer-free now, but must continually get checked.

She and her husband Mark have lived in Gurnee their whole lives. The home they share is just a few miles from the Vantage plant.

“When she has to go in for her mammogram and full blood run to make sure everything is still clear, you hold your breath,” Mark Koch said.

Kathleen said she didn’t even know the plant was there when they moved into their home.

They now know Vantage is a worldwide chemical company. Vantage, Medline, a medical supply company, and three other plants located nearby are named in her lawsuit.

Chris Dore, Edelson PC, is one of Kathleen’s attorneys. His other clients with pending lawsuits have been diagnosed with a form of leukemia, one is just 3 years old. Dore points to governmental testing he said shows ethylene oxide emitted from both plants hasn’t decreased in any substantial way over the years.

Dore said people near the plants have likely contracted a deadly health issue and had no idea why.

“These companies have a responsibility to these communities and they are failing,” Dore said.

Sterigenics in Willowbrook was shut down because of its emissions of ethylene oxide. It was also facing a number of lawsuits.

Medline released a statement:

“Our most important priority is always the health and well-being of our employees, their families and our communities.  We have always operated in compliance with all laws and regulations, have always operated at or below our permitted levels, and plan to defend any suits vigorously.”

While it’ll be a while before the Koch’s case goes before a jury, they have one goal in mind. Somebody has to be held accountable.

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