Six former Hinsdale South High School teachers have filed a lawsuit against Sterigenics, an industrial sterilization company, claiming that the company’s toxic emissions gave them cancer.
Five of the plaintiffs allege the emissions resulted in their breast cancer diagnoses while one teacher claims it caused her to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The teachers worked at Hinsdale South High School mostly in the 80’s and 90’s and had no family history of cancer. They believe their close proximity to the plant led to their diagnoses.
“I’ve been doing these cases for 20 years and [have] never seen a station with a facility using a chemical this dangerous [and it] was known to be being released for years out into a residential community,” their lawyer Shaun Collins said.
Carol Tufo, one of the plaintiffs, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and didn’t know how she developed the illness.
“I planned my own funeral,” Tufo said.
“I can’t imagine anybody or any company putting poison in the air and having money be more important than people,” she added.
Jeanne Conrad-DeBroeck, another plaintiff, worked at the high school from 1979 to 1999 and as a substitute teacher from 1999 to 2011. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 and had a double mastectomy.
“There are people that I loved at Hinsdale South who have lost their lives, that angers me greatly,” Conrad-DeBroeck said.
“We intend to prove that Carol’s cancer and Jeanne’s cancer was caused by decisions Sterigenics made everyday to put a human carcinogen out into the air,” Collins said.
Sterigenics opened its facility in Willowbrook, IL in 1984, releasing ethylene oxide emissions from its medical instrument sterilization chambers into the air. This past spring, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that the emissions were responsible for long-term cancer risks up to 10 times higher than was the EPA has established as acceptable levels.
Sterigenics released the following statement:
“Sterigenics empathizes with anyone battling cancer. Sterigenics is confident that it is not responsible for causing the illness. We operate safely to sterilize vital medical products and have consistently complied with and outperformed applicable regulations. We intend to vigorously defend against unfounded and meritless claims.”