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Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Residents of Maywood, CA, for Exposure to Cancer Causing Ethylene Oxide

Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP filed a lawsuit on behalf of many longtime residents of Maywood, CA, next to Vernon, an industrial area, for their decades long exposure to cancer caused by carcinogenic Ethylene Oxide being released into the air. The chemical, which is a known human carcinogen, allegedly was released by Sterigenics, and its predecessor Griffith Micro Science, from its Vernon facility since approximately 1987.

Ethylene Oxide is used to sterilize medical equipment and spices but, during the process, some of the Ethylene Oxide escapes the facility into the surrounding air. Ethylene Oxide is odorless and colorless, so nearby Maywood residents never knew it was in the air surrounding their homes. Sterigenics knew it was releasing the chemical but never informed the residents. Some Plaintiffs were born and raised in Maywood. Others have lived there for decades. Two of the residents have died from their cancers, and the case is filed by their surviving family.

The impacted residents, all within blocks of the facility, have suffered from breast, stomach, and blood cancers as well as aplastic anemia, a precursor to blood cancer. Eight out of twelve Plaintiffs were diagnosed with breast cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute, and other protective health agencies around the world, Ethylene Oxide is associated with breast cancer, stomach cancer, lymphoma, and leukemia. Sterigenics has been sued before over similar exposures from its Illinois and Georgia facilities.

“Maywood is a small working class community. The concentration of breast cancer cases in the tiny town of Maywood is shocking. Residents have a right to know if they are breathing carcinogens. This lawsuit will hold Defendants accountable for their actions,” said Gary Praglin, a Partner in Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy’s Santa Monica office.

“Maywood residents have been unknowingly exposed to cancer-causing Ethylene Oxide for decades. This lawsuit seeks clean air, compensation, and justice for victims who have fallen ill to — and died from — cancers known to be caused by inhaling toxic EtO,” said Kelly Weil, a Partner in Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy’s Santa Monica office.

Sterigenics has long been on notice that Ethylene Oxide is toxic and carcinogenic. In 2022, the LA Times investigation into Sterigenics quoted Dr. Cyrus Rangan of the Los Angeles Department of Public Health about Ethylene Oxide: “It’s one of a handful of chemicals where there’s pretty good evidence of a link to human cancer with prolonged exposure.” Previous cases against Sterigenics have shown that Ethylene Oxide can cause cancer. One Judge ruled that Plaintiffs’ expert witnesses and scientific studies “support that inhalation of Ethylene Oxide can cause cancer.”

The Complaint seeks compensation for personal injuries and wrongful death damages as well as punitive damages.

The Plaintiffs are represented by the nationally recognized law firm of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy. Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy has been filing cases to keep the environment safe and clean for over 50 years. The case is being handled by Gary Praglin, Kelly Weil, Hannah Brown, and Theresa Vitale of the Cotchett office in Santa Monica.

The case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Case No. 24STCV06677.

About Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP

Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP engages exclusively in litigation and trials and has earned a national reputation for its dedication to prosecuting or defending socially just actions. To learn more about the firm, visit


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