Lake County residents file lawsuit over exposure to carcinogens

A group of residents in the northern suburbs say they have been poisoned by Ethylene Oxide being emitted by two local companies.

"The government shut down Sterigenics and I'm still breathing this in," Gurnee resident Patty Bennett said.

Bennett is one of four Lake County residents filing suit against two local companies, Medline Industries of Waukegan and Vantage Specialty Chemicals of Gurnee.

They say the companies' use of the chemical Ethylene Oxide--or ETO-- has caused their cancer, in Bennett's case a rare form of Leukemia.

"These companies need to stop emitting this ETO now," Bennett said. "They need to be held accountable not only for how this has impacted my life, but I know there's a lot of other people."

Attorney Dan Kotin, who filed the lawsuits, says both companies have self-reported ETO emissions above the federal standards.

"It's been decades now that everyone in the industry knows that ethylene oxide is a human carcinogen. It causes cancer.And these companies certainly knew that for decades," Kotin said.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Medline says: "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."

Earlier this year state regulators shut down the Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook after finding elevated levels of ETO.

Now, Bennett wants to see the same concern in Lake County.

"We need our government officials to see that this is a serious problem. And what's the difference between Willowbrook and here?" Bennett asked.