The man, Adam Akarsoy, lives and works near a B. Braun sterilization plant in Hanover, Pa., and filed the federal lawsuit seeking certification as a class action. Akarsoy claims that B. Braun “has consistently emitted, on average, nearly 5,000 pounds of carcinogenic ethylene oxide from its (Hanover) facility over the last decade. In 2009 alone, B. Braun emitted 8,960 pounds of EtO.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers EtO a human carcinogen. The Pennsylvania lawsuit is the latest filed against a medtech company over EtO emissions. Willowbrook, Ill.-area residents and workers have filed more more than 76 lawsuits against Sterigenics claiming EtO exposure from a now-shuttered sterilization plant there caused cancer and other health problems. Citizens, local and state officials in Georgia and Michigan, which have EtO plants operated by companies such as Sterigenics and BD, have also been clamoring for tighter regulations.
Eleven state attorneys general last month urged the EPA to impose stricter regulations over commercial operations that emit EtO. New regulations are expected in May.
Akarsoy claims B. Braun was negligent and committed wanton and willful misconduct by allowing “dangerous volumes” of EtO into the air from its facility; disregarding safe methods to control those emissions; failing to warn the community about the EtO emissions; and subjecting people who live and work near the plant “to an elevated cancer risk,” according to the lawsuit.
Akarsoy also claims the plant is a public nuisance and that its use and emission of EtO constitutes an “ultrahazardous activity.” The lawsuit asks that the company pay for medical monitoring of people who live and work near the plant.
B. Braun, whose U.S. headquarters are in Bethlehem, Pa., told the Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.) that the lawsuit is without merit and that it would “mount a vigorous defense to protect its reputation.” The company also cited Pennsylvania Cancer Registry data showing the rate of cancer cases for the five cancer types the EPA linked to EtO exposure is comparable to those elsewhere in the state, the newspaper reported.
B. Braun received a permit in January from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to reduce its EtO emissions from the Hanover plant by 99%.