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Judge OKs Ohio Child Cancer Suit Against Whirlpool

Tue, 02/11/2014 - 2:09pm
John Seewer, Associated Press

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) -- A federal judge is allowing families whose children have been among dozens sickened in a northern Ohio cancer cluster to move forward with a lawsuit against Whirlpool Corp. after dismissing some of the claims.

The families believe smokestacks from Whirlpool's huge washing machine plant in Clyde sent a chemical compound suspected of causing cancer into the neighborhoods of several children who were among the first diagnosed.

Whirlpool, based in Benton Harbor, Mich., has maintained that there is no scientific or medical fact to back up the allegations.

U.S. District Judge James Carr on Monday dismissed allegations of reckless conduct and fraud against Whirlpool along with claims that the cancer cluster hurt property values around the factory.

He did allow the lawsuit's claims of personal injury and wrongful death to stand.

Nearly 40 young people in a rural area between Toledo and Cleveland have been diagnosed with various types of cancer since the mid-1990s. The diagnoses peaked in 2006, when nine children were told they had cancer.

Attorneys for the families said in a statement that the judge's ruling will force Whirlpool to give them information that the company had been reluctant to release.

"It is one small step in the search for the truth," said attorney Chuck Boyk.

Whirlpool said in a statement that it was pleased most of the claims in the lawsuit had been dismissed. The company said in November that soil tests showed no evidence of illegal dumping or widespread contamination at a now-closed park where the lawsuit claimed the company dumped potentially cancer-causing waste.

The families' lawsuit also said that a compound called benzaldehyde came from Whirlpool's smokestacks. The families' attorneys have said that more research is needed on the chemical compound, which is used as a solvent in painting and porcelain coating.

Ohio health and environmental investigators have spent years testing the air and water around Clyde and talking with the children and their families about where they live and work and what they might have been exposed to. But they've never come up with answer.

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