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Three Veterans Die by Suicide in One Week at VA Facilities 

Veterans advocacy groups are pleading for the inspectors general of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Department of Defense and Department of Health and Human Services to promptly begin a joint investigation after three veterans took their own lives at VA facilities in just one week. According to VA representatives, since 2017 the department has tracked 260 suicide attempts at its facilities, with 240 of those having been interrupted.

As many as 20 veterans are dying by suicide each day. This is a tragically preventable number that reflects one and a half times higher than the civilian population’s suicide rate. Obviously, this group of American heroes is pleading for help.

medical malpractice attorneys

FDA Says Surgical Mesh Manufacturers Must Stop Selling Unsafe Devices

On April 16, 2019, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered two manufacturers of three different vaginal mesh products to immediately stop selling and distributing their products for not meeting U.S. premarket standards for high risk devices. The FDA also said there was insufficient evidence that the mesh worked better than surgery to repair pelvic organ prolapse (POP).

The three vaginal mesh devices are:

chicago cancer risk exposure

Department of Public Health Says Cancer Risk Studies Will Continue Southwest of Chicago

On March 29, 2019, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) released news that the Willowbrook Cancer Incidence Assessment study involving the area surrounding the Sterigenics facility in DuPage County found that cancers were indeed elevated. The increased cancer risk presents a public health hazard, prompting IDPH to investigate the implications associated with ethylene oxide (EtO) emissions in the Willowbrook area and recommend for further research.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), EtO is a colorless gas commonly used to sterilize some types of medical equipment and in fact carcinogenic to humans. The Sterigenics plant was ordered in February of 2019 by the Illinois EPA to seal its containers of the chemical and stop using EtO to sterilize devices.

work injury attorney

New Proposed Legislation for Illinois Workers Exposed to Toxic Substance Injuries Now Sits with Governor Pritzker

The Illinois General Assembly has passed Senate Bill 1596, which is now at the hands of the new Governor awaiting passage to become a law. The legislation will allow workers to file a claim for benefits after being exposed to harmful substances (such as asbestos or beryllium) and later develop symptoms of injury or disease after the statutes of limitations has run out. The current 25-year time bar has made it nearly impossible for those workers to seek support thru the Illinois civil courts for assistance in recovery from their occupational diseases. SB 1596 would amend sections of the state’s current Workers’ Compensation Act and the Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act and applies to cases in which the statutes of limitations preclude recovery.

25-Year Timeline for Toxin-Related Employer Liability

illinois immigration

4 Illinois Immigrant Shelters Will Close After Repeated Incidents of Child Maltreatment

For more than 20 years, the Chicago area has been the temporary home to many migrant children detained after crossing the border. Some of these young immigrants were either alone or were taken from their immigrant parents to now be overseen by the U.S. Health and Human Services department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement. Currently, the largest caretaker for these children in Illinois is a 130-year-old nonprofit, Heartland Human Care Services, part of Heartland Alliance. ProPublica Illinois published a detailed report on December 21, 2018 which revealed several Heartland facilities had been involved in a series of disturbing federal investigations focused on the alleged abuse and neglect of migrant children.

Heartland is in the news again as the group announced it will close four shelters by the end of May. The shelters to be closed are located in the suburban Chicago community of Des Plaines and located on the campus of Maryville Academy, a Catholic child welfare agency. Heartland officials released a memo stating that the group also plans to add staff, employee care training and other resources at its remaining five facilities located in Chicago’s Rogers Park, Bronzeville, Englewood and Beverly neighborhoods. The closings are likely in response to the current administration’s zero-tolerance immigration push and related challenges, as well as in reflection of an ending lease on these facilities. Heartland officials say they plan to move children out of the Des Plaines shelters starting immediately.

illinois injury lawyer

2018 Report Shows Nearly 100 Children Died While Involved in Illinois Welfare System

Each year, the Office of the Inspector General investigates deaths and serious injuries of Illinois children whose families were involved in the child welfare system. The Illinois Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) Office has released a report by Acting Inspector General Meryl Paniak stating 98 children involved with the child welfare agency died in fiscal year 2018. The deaths were investigated between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018. No names or exact locations were used in the report but Cook County was home to the highest number of deceased children connected to the system compared to the rest of the state.

Paniak expressed concern in a letter to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration and the General Assembly saying, “The incidence of child maltreatment is deeply influenced by poverty, violence, mental health and substance use. System-wide collaboration and data-sharing across multiple service sectors—child welfare, juvenile justice, early childhood, education, public health, and behavioral and mental health fields—are essential to improving child and family safety and well-being on a broad scale.”

talcum powder risk

New Evidence Shows Johnson & Johnson Execs Likely Knew Talc Found in Baby Powder Was Not Safe

For decades, claims of cancer-causing talc found in popular American household brand Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder have stayed alive through more than 11,700 plaintiffs and hundreds of personal injury reviews, successful lawsuits, and dozens of intense investigative reports. Most recently, under the close watch of a Reuters published review, thousands of court released internal and confidential documents uncover the company’s knowingly talc and asbestos risk could have been responsible for causing horrible diseases, such as ovarian cancer. Worse, it’s believed many Johnson & Johnson executives and scientists may have known about the issue since the early 1970s and chose to do nothing about it.

Within the Reuters review of these now unshielded Johnson & Johnson documents, as well as trial testimony and scientific research reviews, several conclusions were made as noted by Reuters in a December 14, 2018 NBC news special report.

vietnam veteran care

Vietnam Veteran’s Wrongful Death Awarded $7 Million Verdict

A Cook County Circuit Court jury recently awarded $7 million to the family of Patrick Stein, a two-tour Vietnam veteran, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), after nurses and paramedics failed to keep him safe in an ambulance transfer from St. James-Olympia Fields hospital to the Edward Hines Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital for psychiatric treatment. The 64-year-old Army veteran died in July 2014, after his PTSD confusion resettled and prompted him to exit an ambulance while it was traveling 30 to 35 miles per hours and sustain fatal injuries to his head and body. Prior to his transfer, his concerned family had brought him to the St. James-Olympia Fields emergency room after finding him outside his daughter’s home with a butcher knife clutched to his abdomen. Once Mr. Stein arrived at the hospital though, he did not remember the episode with the knife and continued to present dangerous confusion, prompting his fatal ambulance ride to the VA hospital. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that PTSD afflicts almost 31 percent of Vietnam veterans.

Levin & Perconti attorneys Michael Bonamarte, Margaret Battersby Black and Cari Silverman brought the suit on behalf of Mr. Stein’s family. The attorneys argued that Mr. Stein, given his medical history, should have been carefully monitored by medical staff to protect and prevent him from injuring himself during the transfer. Hospital nurses were also faulted for failing to relay information to the paramedics about his mental state. The clinical impressions of the medical staff at St. James indicated Mr. Stein to exhibit:

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

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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