Vantage and Medline Facing Lawsuit Claiming Their Manufacturing Plants Release Too Much Ethylene Oxide into the Air

Medline Claims They’re in Compliance

Vantage and Medline are facing a lawsuit that claims both plants release too much of the cancer-causing chemical ethylene oxide into the air.

Two suburban manufacturing plants are facing four lawsuits accusing Medline and Vantage of knowingly endangering peoples lives by releasing too much of the cancer-causing chemical ethylene oxide into the air. The lawsuits were filed Wednesday August 28, 2019 in Cook County, but both companies are located in Lake County — Vantage in Gurnee and Medline in Waukegan.

Both companies are accused of emitting the same cancer-causing chemical as the Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook where Sterigenics is also facing lawsuits. Sterigenics in Willowbrook was shut down by the Illinois EPA because of ethylene oxide emissions. The Illinois EPA Acting Director issued the so-called “seal order” to prevent any new medical equipment sterilization processes using ethylene oxide

Kathleen Koch is one of the plaintiffs, who was diagnosed with an environmentally induced breast cancer tumor in October 2014. Her doctor said it was triple negative tumor, which means that the three most common types of receptors known to fuel most breast cancer growth–estrogen, progesterone, and the HER-2/neu gene– are not present in the cancer tumor and that the tumor was non-hormonal and environmentally induced. Koch is cancer-free now, but must continually get checked because the type of cancer tumor is at high risk of spreading or recurring.

Chris Dore, Edelson PC, is one of Kathleen’s attorneys. Dore’s other clients with pending lawsuits have been diagnosed with a form of leukemia. One of Dore’s clients is only 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.

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

Medline released a statement in response to the lawsuits:

“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.”

Vantage and Medline are facing a lawsuit that claims both plants release too much of the cancer-causing chemical ethylene oxide into the air.

Medline with a location at 1160 South Northpoint Boulevard in Waukegan provides a wide variety of medical products from Advanced Wound Care to Lab Supplies to respiratory, vascular access and foot & ankle surgery products. The manufacturing plant on Northpoint Boulevard is less than 700 feet from an apartment building across Caismer Pulaski Drive.

Vantage at 3938 Porett Drive in Gurnee is part of an international company that creates, produces and sources high-end and tailored specialty chemicals and ingredients incorporated into everyday products that nourish, care, sustain and enhance performance, according to their website.

Dore said it’s likely there are people with cancer that live near these manufacturing plants that have no idea how they got sick.

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

The US EPA is working with Illinois EPA and Lake County Health Department to address emissions of ethylene oxide from facilities in Lake County, Ill. EPA has been working with Illinois EPA to examine information from both the Vantage and Medline facilities to determine potential next steps. 

EPA’s latest National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA), identified four census tracts in Lake County as having potential cancer risks of 100 in 1 million or greater from exposure to a group of air pollutants known as “air toxics.” The majority of that risk was estimated to be from the pollutant ethylene oxide (EtO).

The NATA risk estimates were modeled using emissions information from the 2014 National Emissions Inventory, which included ethylene oxide emissions from Medline Industries in Waukegan. After NATA was released, EPA learned that ethylene oxide emissions from another facility, Vantage Specialty Chemicals, had been erroneously reported as zero to the National Emissions Inventory.

Ethylene oxide is a flammable, colorless gas used to make a range of products, including antifreeze, textiles, plastics, detergents and adhesives. EtO also is used to sterilize equipment and plastic devices that cannot be sterilized by steam, such as medical equipment. The Clean Air Act lists EtO as a Hazardous Air Pollutant. U.S. EPA recently updated its risk value for ethylene oxide and is working with industry, and state, local and tribal air agencies to address this chemical.

Medline less than 700 feet from nearest  apartments in Waukegan
Medline less than 700 feet from nearest apartments in Waukegan.
Vantage Specialty Chemicals less than 1500 feet from the nearest single family home in Gurnee
Vantage Specialty Chemicals less than 1500 feet from the nearest single family home in Gurnee.

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CBS 2 investigation leads to closure of Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook (Dave Savini reports).