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A St. Louis County jury has found Monsanto not liable for health effects from PCB exposure. (Photo:  Alex Ranaldi/flickr/cc)

Monsanto Off the Hook for Cancers From PCBs It Produced

St. Louis County Circuit Court finds company not negligent

Andrea Germanos

Monsanto emerged victorious on Tuesday at the end of a nearly month-long trial in which plaintiffs had alleged the former manufacturer of PCBs showed "a reckless disregard for human life."

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, were manufactured in the U.S. from 1929 until being banned in 1979, and, according to reporting by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Monsanto was the primary manufacturer of them. The EPA classifies PCBs as probable human carcinogens.

The suit charges Monsanto with negligence for production and sale of PCBs despite knowledge of their harm.

"Such conduct was gross and flagrant and done with a reckless disregard for human life and for the safety of others," the Post-Dispatch reports the lawsuit as stating.

Plaintiffs in the case developed lymphohematopoietic cancer after being exposed to PCBs.  The Post-Dispatch reports that a St. Louis County jury found the company not liable for the deaths and health effects from the exposure.

As to why Solutia, Pharmacia and Pfizer are also named in the suit, the Post-Disptach explains:

In 1997, Monsanto’s chemical business was spun off as Solutia. Three years later, the rest of Monsanto — its life sciences division — merged with Pharmacia. Then in 2002, the current incarnation of Monsanto, based in Creve Coeur, was spun off. A year later, Pharmacia merged with Pfizer.

ThinkProgress' Natasha Geiling reported earlier this year on other suits against Monsanto related to PCBs, including one filed by the city of San Diego. Geiling writes:

In a 1970 internal memo, agrochemical giant Monsanto alerted its development committee to a problem: Polychlorinated Biphenyls — known as PCBs — had been shown to be a highly toxic pollutant.

PCBs — sold under the common name Aroclor — were also huge business, raking in some $10 million in profits. Not wanting to lose all of these profits, Monsanto decided to continue its production of Aroclor while alerting its customers to its potentially adverse effects. Monsanto got out of the PCB business altogether in 1977 — two years before the chemicals were banned by the EPA — but just because the company no longer produces the toxic substances doesn’t mean it can forget about them completely.


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