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Posted On February 22, 2022 Personal Injury,Product Liability and Class Action News

Are Those Living and Working Around B. Braun’s Allentown Facility at Risk Due to Ethylene Oxide?

Cancer patientRecently, the medical device manufacturer, B. Braun, is again in the news for the high levels of ethylene oxide that are allegedly being emitted from the company’s Allentown, PA manufacturing facility. According to a recent class action lawsuit, B. Braun’s ethylene oxide emissions put locals at a nearly 200 times greater risk of developing certain types of cancer. The lawsuit was filed by more than 30 people, all of which either live near or work in the B. Braun Allentown facility and developed cancer. At Console & Associates, P.C., our team of toxic tort lawyers is investigating the allegations against B. Braun and interviewing any individuals who believe that their cancer diagnosis may have been a result of living near or working in the facility.

The Known Dangers of Ethylene Oxide?

Ethylene oxide, also referred to as EtO, is flammable gas frequently used by manufacturers. It is also commonly used as a sterilizing agent for certain medical devices. However, as of December 2016, the United States Environmental Protection Agency considered EtO a human carcinogen.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ethylene oxide causes damage to human DNA, which can lead to cancer, among other conditions.  For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that “[a]cute exposures to EtO gas may result in respiratory irritation and lung injury, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath, and cyanosis. Chronic exposure has been associated with the occurrence of cancer, reproductive effects, mutagenic changes, neurotoxicity, and sensitization.”

The Centers for Disease Control has stated that exposure to EtO can lead to a significant increase in the chances of developing certain cancers of the white blood cells, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma, myeloma, and lymphocytic leukemia. There is also evidence suggesting that ethylene oxide exposure in women can lead to an increased likelihood of developing breast cancer.

The last time the EPA updated its guidance on EtO was back in 2016 when it determined that the substance was 30 times more carcinogenic than previously thought. However, more than five years since this update, the EPA has not yet updated its ethylene oxide emission standards. However, the EPA has indicated an intention to update the ethylene oxide emission standards sometime in 2023.

Why Is EtO Used By B. Braun to Sterilize the Company’s Medical Equipment?

If you work at the B. Braun Allentown facility or live nearby and have developed Leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma or any other type of cancer, it may be the result of EtO exposure from the B. Braun plant.
Given the risks presented by ethylene oxide, many are asking why companies like B. Braun continue to use EtO. In an attempt to answer the many questions of this nature the company was receiving, B. Braun created a website to address the allegations. According to B. Braun, “sterilization with ethylene oxide is the only method that effectively sterilizes and does not damage the device during the sterilization process.” The Food and Drug Administration’s position appears to lend some support to this claim. According to the FDA, “for many medical devices, sterilization with ethylene oxide may be the only method that effectively sterilizes and does not damage the device during the sterilization process. Medical devices made from certain polymers (plastic or resin), metals, or glass, or that have multiple layers of packaging or hard-to-reach places (for example, catheters) are likely to be sterilized with ethylene oxide.”

However, the fact that EtO may be necessary for B. Braun’s business does not necessarily absolve the company from liability. This is because companies that use hazardous chemicals must take the necessary precautions to ensure that workers and the general public are not put at an increased risk of harm.

Can B. Braun Be Held Liable for Cancers Caused by EtO Exposure?

This is an open question; however, the toxic tort lawyers at Console & Associates, P.C. are looking into the potential remedies on behalf of those who lived or worked near the facility and developed cancer.

It is clear that B. Braun is aware of the risks posed by EtO. In fact, according to the company, in 2020, it installed a new ethylene oxide emission control system that “has demonstrated, during third-party testing, an EtO destruction and removal efficiency of more than 99.9% for the main sterilization process.”

However, some take issue with the way that B. Braun measured the EtO emissions. This is based on the company taking emission samples from the edge of the facility rather than at the “stack” where the chemical is actually emitted. It stands to reason that the emission levels in areas farther away from the stack will show a lower emission level.

About B. Braun

Braun is a German medical device and pharmaceutical device manufacturing company based in Melsungen, Germany. The company manufactures and sells healthcare products and devices, including those related to infusion therapy, nutrition therapy, anesthesia and pain management, renal therapy, wound management B. Braun employs roughly 63,000 employees and has offices or manufacturing facilities in over 60 countries, including in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

The company’s Allentown manufacturing facility is located at 901 Marcon Blvd., Allentown, Pennsylvania 18109.

Schedule a Free Consultation with an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer to Discuss Your Questions About Ethylene Oxide

If you work at the B. Braun Allentown facility or live nearby and have developed Leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma or any other type of cancer, it may be the result of EtO exposure from the B. Braun plant. When you’re ready, the next step to learning more about your options is to reach out to a dedicated ethylene oxide attorney to discuss your claim. While the thought of bringing an ethylene oxide class action lawsuit against B. Braun may seem overwhelming, the knowledgeable and compassionate lawyers at Console & Associates, P.C. make the process as easy on you as possible. Once you select a lawyer to assist you with your claim, they will take over every aspect of the case, allowing you to focus on your health and spending time with your family. To learn more, contact Console & Associates, P.C. at 866-778-5500 today. You can also reach out to us through our online contact form.