Friday, September 16, 2022

California county, 9 municipalities sue Monsanto for contaminating them with toxic PCBs

Marin County and nine of its municipalities, including my hometown, San Anselmo, have sued Monsanto because its products allegedly caused contamination.

The lawsuit — according to a press release from officials — claims the giant agri-business "deliberately misled the public, environmental regulators, and its own customers so it could reap massive profits" from its sales of toxic PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl), chemical compounds that eventually were banned by the Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976.

Monsanto, which produced nearly 99 percent of all PCBs used in the United States since the 1930s, faces similar court actions nationwide.

PCBs are known or suspected to cause many diseases, including non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, breast cancer, liver cancer, gallbladder cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, pancreatic cancer, and skin cancer, says a recent story by Gideon Rubin, staff writer for Patch's San Anselmo-Fairfax website.

County officials explain, the Patch piece notes, that the suit about PCBs "aims to provide relief for the costs the jurisdictions will incur to remove the contaminants."

Monsanto, which was bought out by Bayer in 2018, has meanwhile settled multiple lawsuits involving its product Roundup, the nation's most popular weedkiller, after plaintiffs alleged it had caused cancer. But thousands of other suits are pending.

Rubin's article quotes county officials as saying that "according to Monsanto's own internal documents, company officials knew and were warned about the dangers to human health and the environment form PCBs, but Monsanto wrongfully promoted the product and failed to warn customers about its dangers."

The story states that two other companies, Solute, Inc., and Pharmacia LLC, are included in the new suit filed in Marin County Superior Court. A later article, by Richard Halstead in the Marin Independent Journal today, explains that the two companies had been spun off from Monsanto. While Monsanto retained its agriculture business, Solute took on the chemical business, and Pharmacia acquired the pharmaceutical business.

In addition to the county and San Anselmo, plaintiffs include the cities of Belvedere, Mill Valley, Novato, San Rafael, and Sausalito, and the towns of Corte Madera, Ross, and Tiburon.

Brian Washington
All the plaintiffs, according to Rubin's article, "opted out of a national class-action settlement because it failed to sufficiently cover the anticipated costs to comply with regulations and prevent further damage, Marin County Counsel Brian Washington said in a statement."

The piece further quotes Washington as saying "PCBs have left a long toxic legacy. The companies responsible need to contribute to the solution so that the taxpayers do not have to carry the entire burden."

The chemical compounds, Rubin's story says, have also been implicated "in non-cancer health problems such as cardiovascular, endocrine,  gastrointestinal, hepatic (liver), immune, neonatal, neurological, ocular, and reproductive harm."

PCB contamination "resulting from the defendants' actions is already widespread across the [San Francisco] Bay Area," Patch reports, adding that "the entire bay is classified as 'impaired' by PCBs under the federal Clean Water Act. This impairment endangers natural resources and human health, county officials said."

That contamination has been so severe in the bay, the story continues, "that the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has advised some people not to eat certain types of fish caught in the bay."

Rubin's piece details the suggestion: "Children and women aged 18 to 49 are advised not to eat striped bass, sharks, and white sturgeon caught in the bay. Everyone is also advised not to eat the skin and fatty tissue of any fish caught in the bay."

More information on product-caused contamination can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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