Washington is suing Monsanto over PCB contamination in the state. Monsanto is accused of negligent handling of PCBs. Polychlorinated biphenyls are a banned and highly toxic group of chemicals that Monsanto made for decades. The biotech bully from Missouri has been sued by several cities over PCB contamination, but Washington is the first state to pursue litigation.
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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced the lawsuit at a press conference December 10, 2016. It was filed in King County Superior Court in Seattle.
Washington seeks damages on several grounds. They include product liability for Monsanto’s Failure to Warn about PCB dangers; Negligence; Trespass for harming the state’s natural resources, including fish and wildlife.
Monsanto was the only manufacturer of the PCB compound that was used to insulate electronics from 1935 until 1977. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally banned PCBs in 1979, because of PCBs’ link to birth defects and cancer in laboratory animals. PCBs are also known to trigger adverse skin and liver effects in humans. The toxic chemical also survives to poison everything it touches for many decades.
PCBs contaminate Washington State
“PCBs have been found in bays, rivers, streams, sediment, soil and air throughout Washington state,’ explained AG Bob Ferguson, “with more than 600 suspected or confirmed contamination sites from Puget Sound to the Wenatchee River, Lake Spokane to Commencement Bay.”
Mr. Ferguson said Washington has spent tens of millions of dollars on cleaning up PCB contamination, but the toxic pollutants have nevertheless caused grievous harm to protected salmon and orcas. Washington consequently seeks hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars from Monsanto.
Monsanto hid PCB Dangers – Petition
Similar to others who have sued Monsanto for PCB contamination, Mr. Ferguson further claimed that “Monsanto produced PCBs for decades while hiding what they knew about the toxic chemicals’ harm to human health and the environment.”
Mr. Ferguson said Monsanto’s own documents show the company knew about the dangers of PCBs way back in 1937. One document stated that tests on animals revealed “systemic toxic effects” from prolonged exposure from inhaling PCB fumes or ingesting PCBs.
Monsanto Profits Trump Safety
As the Associated Press reported, in 1969, a Monsanto committee on PCBs declared:
“There is too much customer/market need and selfishly too much Monsanto profit to go out … There is little probability that any action that can be taken will prevent the growing incrimination of specific polychlorinated biphenyls … as nearly global environmental contaminants leading to contamination of human food (particularly fish), the killing of some marine species (shrimp), and the possible extinction of several species of fish eating birds.”
Monsanto lied to New Jersey
Despite sitting on this damning information, Monsanto told the public not to worry. Also in 1969, a Monsanto letter to New Jersey’s Department of Conservation stated: “Based on available data, manufacturing and use experience, we do not believe PCBs to be seriously toxic.”
Cities sue Monsanto
Monsanto also faces similar PCB contamination lawsuits from at least eight other West Coast cities, which include Seattle and Spokane in Washington state; Portland in Oregon; Berkeley, San Diego, San Jose, Oakland, Long Beach in California.
Monsanto spokesman Scott S. Partridge said in a statement to the Associated Press that the “[Washington] case is experimental because it seeks to target a product manufacturer for selling a lawful and useful chemical four to eight decades ago that was applied by the U.S. government, Washington State, local cities, and industries into many products to make them safer.”
Monsanto has usually won in lawsuits filed against it over human illness related to PCBs. But in May 2016, a St. Louis jury awarded $46.5 million in damages to three plaintiffs who claimed PCB exposure caused their non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Washington sues Monsanto
That Washington lawsuit also accuses Monsanto of continuing to sell PCBs even after the company knew the dangers and falsely assured people they were safe.
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