For years, the B. Braun plant stood in Hanover Township in eastern Pennsylvania as a seemingly innocuous edifice where medical instruments were sterilized. But day after day, a colorless gas spewed from the plant that was sickening both workers inside the building and residents who lived nearby.
What was being emitted from the B. Braun plant was ethylene oxide, or EtO, which has been deemed a human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Data from the EPA has shown that the cancer risk from EtO is substantially higher than the Pennsylvania average. The substance has been linked to various forms of cancer, including breast cancer, leukemia and Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Recently, 16 lawsuits were filed against the German-based B. Braun on behalf of those sickened by EtO. Three of the victims died due to cancer, while seven are suffering with breast cancer, two with brain cancer, two with types of blood cancer and one with a form of urogynecologic cancer. The lawsuits, filed by Kline & Specter attorneys, claim negligence, strict liability, public and private nuisance, fraud and misrepresentation. They seek punitive as well as compensatory damages.
Said Shanin Specter after filing the suits: “This plant is deadly. Its dangerous emissions need to be curtailed now and the wrongful harms must be compensated and punished quickly and fairly.”
Specter not only filed the suits but also went to the government seeking a remedy, formally complaining with the FDA and asking the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to investigate and order remediation.
B. Braun, according to news reports, is the largest EtO polluter in Pennsylvania and at times has been the 12th worst in the nation. Specter noted that EtO does not have to be used to sterilize medical equipment and that even if it is, there are methods and devices that can greatly reduce emissions.
After filing the 16 lawsuits in a single day, Specter notified the news media of the action and then spoke at length about the problem at B. Braun on Court Radio. He blamed not only the company for “emitting an enormous amount of ethylene oxide from this plant” but also government agencies that did little to prevent the problem.
“One of the problems we have,” he said on the air, “is the government regulators are very weak. We can’t count on the EPA or FDA … to police that and the truth of the matter is the civil justice system is the best check on the free enterprise system.”