NBC 5 anchor Rob Stafford on Friday filed a lawsuit against Sterigenics claiming he was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder after being exposed to toxic levels of ethylene oxide emitted by the Willowbrook facility.
Stafford was diagnosed with amyloidosis in 2017. After that, the United States Department of Health and Human Services released a report calling the emissions from the Sterigenics facility a public health hazard, the lawsuit states.
According to the lawsuit, Stafford lived in Hinsdale and was a regular member of a sports club in Burr Ridge during the time it was determined Sterigenics’ sterilization process resulted in ethylene oxide emission at the Willowbrook facility, causing exposure in portions of Burr Ridge and Hinsdale.
In the lawsuit, Stafford alleges negligence, willful and wanton conduct and ultra-hazardous activity, saying the defendants "had the ability to regulate the emissions of ethylene oxide" but instead failed to warn the public of the risk of their health. He is suing for damages in excess of $50,000.
“Sterigenics sympathizes with anyone who is battling illness. Sterigenics also is confident that its Willowbrook facility is not responsible for causing illness," a spokesperson for Sterigenics said in a statement. "The company operates safely to control and contain ethylene oxide emissions, has consistently complied with applicable regulations and has historically outperformed what the law requires in controlling our emissions. We intend to vigorously defend against claims asserting that Sterigenics caused injury to Illinois citizens.”
Stafford's suit was separate from 32 other lawsuits making similar claims against Sterigenics LLC in filings last week in Cook County Circuit Court. In response to those lawsuits, a Sterigenics spokesman told the Associated Press the company "has consistently complied with applicable regulations," noting that Sterigenics believes the claims lack merit and intends to "vigorously defend against" them.
Stafford’s lawsuit also names GTCR LLC, which acquired and now owns Sterigenics; Robert D. Novak, operations manager of Sterigenics; and Roger Clark, Sterigenics maintenance supervisor until 2015. It claims Novak and Clark knew that the emissions were a known carcinogen.