UPDATE: The Courier reached out to Sterigenics for comment, and a company spokesperson said, “Sterigenics empathizes with anyone battling cancer, but our Atlanta facility’s safe operations are not responsible for causing the illnesses alleged in these lawsuits. We intend to vigorously defend against the plaintiffs’ unfounded claims.”
According to a press release from Leff & Associates, a group of Atlanta-area law firms has filed suit in Gwinnett and Cobb state courts against BD Bard and Sterigenics.
Both companies sterilize medical equipement with ethylene oxide, which is a carcinogen. The BD Bard facility is in Covington, and Sterigenics is located in the Smyrna area near the intersection of Atlanta and Plant Atkinson roads.
The lawsuits were filed on behalf of a portion of 200 clients who were diagnosed with cancer.
The press release described the initial filings as follows
- Darren Penn of Penn Law and Michael Geoffroy with MG Law have filed suits against BD Bard claiming the Ethylene Oxide gas released into the air around the Covington-based plant contributed to an increased cancer diagnosis among residents.
- Cale Conley with Conley Griggs Partin, Rob Hammers with Schneider Hammers, Drew Ashby with The Ashby Firm, and Sharon Zinns with Zinns Law have filed similar suits against Sterigenics, a Smyrna-based medical sterilization company.
The press release gives the following background on the clients in the initial lawsuits:
Gena McLendon worked at an assisted living facility three miles from the BD Bard plant for 19 years (1996-2019). Before that (1988-1996), she was employed by Piedmont Newton Hospital one mile from the Covington facility. In May 2019, she was diagnosed with Smoldering Myeloma. In July of 2019, she was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma.
The plaintiff alleges Gina’s cancer was a result of her exposure to Ethylene Oxide that was stored on, used in and emitted from the Covington plant. The lawsuit claims include negligence that BD Bard emitted excessive volumes of Ethylene Oxide and used EtO instead of safer options. A public nuisance claim is also made that BD Bard failed to warn residents and those working near the facility of the dangers present.
Quinn Buczek lived for more than ten years in a home less than five miles from the Sterigenics facility in Smyrna and attended school for years at the Lovett School, just two miles from Sterigenics. Quinn was a star lacrosse player for the Lovett Lions and dreamed of a Division I scholarship. But those dreams were cut short in the spring of his senior year when he was diagnosed with B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at the age of 18. In his lawsuit filed in Gwinnett County on September 4, Quinn contends that carcinogenic EtO emissions from Sterigenics that he unwittingly breathed for years have caused him to develop — and continue to suffer from — leukemia.
Davina Brewer works in the healthcare field in Atlanta and for nearly 20 years lived in an apartment just a mile from the Sterigenics plant. At the age of 44, Davina was diagnosed with breast cancer, and in particular invasive ductal carcinoma, which required chemotherapy, radiation and surgical intervention. In her lawsuit filed in Cobb County on September Davina contends that carcinogenic EtO emissions from Sterigenics are what triggered her breast cancer and have caused her significant physical and mental suffering.
Stephen Douglass has lived between two and five miles from the Sterigenics facility since 2010. In August of 2018, Stephen was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. He was only 34 years old at the time of his diagnosis. Stephen still lives in Smyrna with his wife and three-year old daughter. He alleges that his cancer was caused as a result of his exposure to Ethylene Oxide that was stored on, used in and emitted from Sterigenics.
Roxanne and Adam Gil became parents on March 2, 2017, when their daughter Olivia was born. That same month, they moved to Rosemont Vinings Ridge Apartment Complex, which is 3.12 miles from the Sterigenics Facility. Unbeknownst them, Olivia’s newborn lungs were breathing in Ethylene Oxide. Olivia began experiencing serious medical issues early-on, and she was ultimately diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in May 2019, shortly after her second birthday. During this time, Roxanne and Adam became parents again, having their daughter Roslyn on February 6, 2019. Roslyn also began suffering medical issues early-on, and has since been diagnosed with a heart defect, other physical defects, adrenal abnormalities, and developmental delays. Roxanne and Adam, on behalf of their children, want to hold Sterigenics accountable for the harm that Ethylene Oxide, which was emitted from their facility, caused to their two young children, and which will forever alter all of their lives.
Backgound on the Sterigenics controversy
The Sterigenics plant became a focus of community concern in Smyrna and surrounding areas after an article jointly published by Georgia Health News and WebMD reported that three census tracts, two in the Smyrna area and one in Covington, had unacceptable levels of cancer risk by EPA standards, due to elevated amounts of ethylene oxide in the air.
The site has been the subject of community organizing and protests.
Cobb Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Boyce then issued an emergency order at the urging of the FDA allowing the plant to reopen temporarily. Sterigenics objected to the temporary nature of the reopening, and then filed suit.
In a related set of rulings, federal Judge William Ray issued orders that Sterigenics could continue its full operations .