Agri-chem giant Monsanto was slapped with a lawsuit this week by Oregon officials who charge that the company hid information about the toxic effects of its products for decades, with disastrous consequences for both human health and the environment.
The state is suing the company for $100 million over PCB, or polychlorinated biphenyl. pollution.
PCB’s are industrial chemicals used in a wide range of manufacturing processes until they were banned over harmful health effects in t 1979.
Here’s a little background on the suit, via ABC News:
The lawsuit seeks $100 million to use to mitigate pollution, particularly along a 10-mile (16 kilometer) stretch of the Willamette River in Portland that will be the target of a $1 billion cleanup announced by federal authorities in 2016.
Oregon’s lawsuit cites internal memos and correspondence indicating that Monsanto knew early on about the toxic effects of PCBs.
A 1937 internal company memo said that exposure to vapors at high temperatures or ingestion of the substances by animals produced “systemic toxic effects” and prolonged skin contact could lead to an acne-like rash, the lawsuit alleged.
Monsanto said in an emailed statement that the litigation undermined decontamination efforts in the Portland Harbor overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The agency declared the area a “superfund site” in 2000.
“Monsanto voluntarily stopped producing PCBs more than 40 years ago and didn’t use or dispose of any PCBs in the state of Oregon. Cleanup efforts are underway in Oregon with the full group of responsible parties under supervision of the EPA, and it’s most important that everyone stay focused on that work,” said Scott S. Partridge, Monsanto’s vice president of global strategy.
In Oregon, more than two dozen rivers and streams have tested positive for PCB contamination and fish and wildlife in more than 40 watersheds have also shown signs of pollution, according to court documents.
Monsanto produced PCBs between 1935 and 1977.
Health experts have shown PCBs to cause cancer, as well as negative effects on the immune, nervous and reproductive systems.