Chemical Release Attorneys

In July 2023, a series of explosions at Dow Chemical Company in Plaquemine, Louisiana, released thousands of pounds of a cancer-causing chemical, ethylene oxide, into the air and prompted a shelter-in-place mandate for nearby residents.

Fishman Haygood is looking into whether a class action lawsuit may be filed as a result of this incident. The firm has experience representing plaintiffs in chemical release cases, and our attorneys recently filed a complaint on behalf of residents impacted by the Marathon Petroleum Company oil refinery fire in Garyville, Louisiana. The firm also currently represents 10,000 residents impacted by unpermitted air releases from an improperly restarted refinery in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Are you a Plaquemine or nearby resident? Do you live within a short distance of the Dow Chemical Company plant? Were you at home during the time of the explosions and fire? Were you impacted by the shelter-in-place mandate? If so, our attorneys would like to speak with you.

What is Ethylene Oxide and How Was It Released?

Ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen, is a highly flammable, colorless gas that is used in the manufacturing of products like antifreeze, textiles, detergents, medicine, and more, as well as a sterilizing agent for medical equipment and a fumigating agent for spices.[1]

On July 14, 2023, Dow Chemical Company’s Glycol II Unit, which manufactures ethylene oxide, experienced several explosions. A shelter-in-place warning was issued from approximately 9:15 p.m. to 3:42 a.m. the following morning; during that period, those living within a half-mile radius of the plant were asked to close their windows and turn off air conditioning units. This all took place during an unprecedented heat wave, leaving residents subject to 80+ degree temperatures overnight. The explosions also resulted in a fire that was not fully extinguished until 5 a.m. on July 16.

As The Advocate reported on September 7, Dow has confirmed that 31,525 pounds of ethylene oxide was released during the explosion. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) data reporting, this amount equals nearly two-thirds of all reported ethylene oxide air emissions across the state of Louisiana in 2021 alone. The quantity of ethylene oxide released in the fire is as much ethylene oxide as the Dow Chemical plant typically releases in a decade.

According to reporting by The Advocate, other chemicals were released during the explosion, including ethyl chloride, which made up the largest single chemical release in the fire.

Is Ethylene Oxide Dangerous?

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the primary method of exposure to ethylene oxide is by breathing air containing the chemical. Because ethylene oxide causes cancer in humans, those exposed to this toxic air pollutant in large concentrations or for a prolonged period may have an increased chance of getting cancer, like lymphoid cancer or breast cancer in women. They may also experience health problems such as damage to the immune, neurological, reproductive, developmental, respiratory, and other systems. Short-term effects in humans consist mainly of central nervous system depression, as well as eye and mucous membrane irritation. Long-term exposure can cause eye, skin, nose, throat, and lung irritation, as well as damage to the brain and nervous system.[2]

Inhalation of ethyl chloride in high doses within a short period of time can cause symptoms like dizziness, feelings of drunkenness, and—in some cases—even unconsciousness. While this chemical’s cancer-causing effects on humans are unknown, an EPA study found that female mice that inhaled the colorless gas experienced a significant increase in carcinogenic tumors.[3]

Should I Contact an Attorney?

Fishman Haygood’s litigators are in the process of determining whether a class action lawsuit may be filed on behalf of residents living near the Dow Chemical Company.

If you lived nearby Dow at the time of the explosion, please contact us by using the form below. One of our attorneys may reach out to tell you more about how you can help the investigation. It costs nothing to get in touch, and you’re not obligated to take legal action after talking with someone about your rights.

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[2] Id.