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“It is the story of how cracks and flaws not just at Somerville Hospital, but throughout our health care system — communication errors, overburdened staffs, lack of fail-safes — can snowball into someone’s unimaginable death.”

-Pete DeMarco describing his wife, Laura Levis’ death to the Boston Globe

A Romantic Partner and Uber Can Find You, But 911 Can’t

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A federal agency’s results from a May air quality investigation that shows the risk of cancer in Willowbrook and surrounding communities is higher than the EPA initially reported to the facility, Sterigenics, in December. Ethylene oxide (etO) emissions from Sterigenics International, Inc., a plant that specializes in the sterilization of medical equipment, pharmaceuticals and foods/spices, have been given off from the facility since 1984. The federal agency behind the most recent investigation is the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a division of the Department of Health and Human Services.

According to the EPA, the cancers associated with excess etO exposure include:

  • Breast cancer
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halloween accidents

Trick-or-Treat Injuries Trend on the Rise and Drunk Drivers Are to Blame

Halloween related events such as community trick-or-treating have sadly become the growing scene of gruesome drunk-driving fatalities. This is because many families and their costume-clad children innocently share the streets with others who are on their way home from celebrating at local bars and restaurants and driving under the influence of alcohol. The Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) officials say the scary statistics don’t lie.

  • During the Halloween holiday period (6 p.m. October 31 to 5:59 a.m. November 1) during the years 2012-2016, 168 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes.
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halloween safety

Trick-or-Treat: The Scary Truth About Halloween Injuries

Many Halloween traditions involve pumpkins, apple cider, and even a scary hayride, but we are going to bet there will be some neighborhood trick-or-treating involved too. And for the more than 41.1 million trick-or-treaters, the majority children ages 5 to 14, who hit U.S. doorsteps in 2017 requesting a Halloween treat, many injuries followed. This year, the attorneys at Levin & Perconti, especially those with young families of their own including Mike Bonamarte, Margaret Battersby Black, Marvet Sweis Drnovsek, Colleen Mixan Mikaitis, AJ Thut, Jaime Koziol Delaney, and Pam Dimo thought it would be helpful to share a few easy ways our blog readers can protect children from injury while trick-or-treating this Halloween night.

  1. Be Seen
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This month, two unrelated Detroit funeral homes have been raided after tipsters revealed that the bodies and cremated remains of fetuses and infants have been improperly stored there, some as long as 3 years.

The idea of abusing bereaved families’ trust and the immoral treatment of the deceased in order to make money is not new. In 2009, it was discovered that Burr Oak cemetery right here in Alsip had been digging up bodies and headstones and reselling the plots to the loved ones of the newly deceased. What followed were heartbreaking searches for the bodies of loved ones who had been moved from their final resting place and demands for answers why. Levin & Perconti successfully represented several clients in lawsuits against the cemetery. What the investigation by the police and the FBI revealed was greed, pure and simple. The cemetery’s owners thought bereft loved ones wouldn’t realize years later that their family member had been moved, allowing them to reuse plots and reap the profits.

Sadly, what is happening in Detroit feels eerily similar.

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pollution in chicago

Willowbrook Sterigenics Investigated for Emitting Invisible Cancer-Causing Gas to Residents and Workers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is headed to the neighborhood of one of Levin & Perconti’s founding partners, John Perconti, to perform “ambient air testing” at the Willowbrook Sterigenics facility in DuPage County. Sterigenics is a global company which runs contract business for sterilization services. The Willowbrook facility, currently at the center of a toxic emissions review, sterilizes medical devices such as syringes and surgical procedure kits. The emission in question, Ethylene Oxide (EtO), is a known carcinogen and airborne substance identified as troublesome and cancer-causing for residents and workers who are ongoingly exposed. In 2007, the EPA issued standards to reduce emissions of EtO from hospital and medical device sterilizers to protect workers and community residents from damaging air pollutants.

An August 2018 public report prepared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) titled “Evaluation of Potential Health Impacts for Ethylene Oxide Emissions” showed workers and residents who live nearby Sterigenics have been exposed to elevated airborne EtO concentrations. The ATSDR further concluded that “an elevated cancer risk exists for residents and off-site workers in the Willowbrook community surrounding the Sterigenics facility,” and that “these elevated risks present a public health hazard.” ATSDR officials have put forth the recommendation that Sterigenics “take immediate action to reduce EtO emissions at this facility.”

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In an audit released late last month, the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) reported that a southern Illinois housing authority failed to test for and safely remedy lead-based paint, while also allowing residents to live in units with little heat, and mold, rat, and roach infestations. The agency’s own investigative division also said that HUD has been aware of the problems since 2010 and failed to intervene for fear of bringing unwanted attention upon themselves.

With 109 housing authorities in the state of Illinois and HUD’s own inspector general calling out their inadequacy, many are wondering whom else the agency is failing to protect.

Housing Authority Discriminated Against Black Residents, Employees

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For the first time in history, the Food and Drug Administration is set to conduct a survey examining safety and production practices of cosmetics and beauty products. On July 2, the FDA officially announced its intention to investigate the beauty industry and gave 60 days (by 8/31/18) for the public to comment.

Beauty Industry is Largely Unregulated

Most people are surprised to learn that the FDA has very little regulatory authority over the $100 billion cosmetics industry. Cosmetics, including shampoos, lotions, deodorants, nail polish, and other personal care products, do not require FDA approval before being sold to the public, nor does the FDA have the ability to force a company to recall a product.

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“If you don’t have enough staff to take care of the kids, that’s negligence.”

-Casa Guadalupe employee speaking to ProPublica for Records Reveal “Lax” Supervision, Sexual Activity at Chicago-Area Shelters Housing Immigrant Children

Following on the heels of news that an HIV-positive employee at a youth immigrant shelter in Mesa, Arizona has been charged with 11 counts of sexual misconduct against minors, comes a report of similar offenses within Chicago-area facilities.

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The FDA is often criticized for the amount of time it takes to test and approve a drug, a required step before a medication is able to be marketed and sold to the public. But behind the scenes, more and more pharmaceuticals are being quickly approved, bypassing the traditionally-required clinical trials that ensure a drug’s safety while providing the benefits they claim.

The Drug Approval Process

According to FDA.gov, the standard drug approval process is 3 phases: