DC Attorney General Karl A. Racine filed a lawsuit against Monsanto Company for making, promoting, and selling toxic chemicals called polychlorinated biphenyls which they knew would harm residents of the District, pollute waterways, and kill wildlife.
“For decades, Monsanto profits by knowingly manufacturing, marketing, and selling toxic chemicals that contaminated the District’s environment, putting the health of our residents and precious natural resources, including the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, at risk,” said Attorney General Racine.
The lawsuit alleges that these chemicals, called PCBs, were sold for nearly 50 years while Monsanto made false statements about their safety and did not warn the public of the potential for cancer or liver damage. It allegedly produced PCBs from 1929 through 1977. The chemicals were used in various products including paints, caulks, inks, sealants, and electrical products. The chemicals remain in the environment for decades after use and are retained in animal tissue which makes the animals dangerous to eat. Racine is seeking payment for past and future damages associated with the contamination as well as civil penalties.
“PCBs were widely used in consumer and industrial products before they were banned in 1979, contaminating the District’s land, water, fish, and wildlife. Due to their high degree of persistence, the chemicals remain in the District’s environment today, still accumulating in fish and wildlife. According to estimates, clean-up and restoration of the District’s natural resources will cost hundreds of millions of dollars,” said a press release from the Attorney General’s office.
The lawsuit was filed against Monsanto, which is currently owned by Bayer AG, and town companies which were formerly part of Monsanto Solutia and Pharmacia. Racine alleges that 99 percent of the PCBs used in the United States were manufactured and sold by Monsanto. The products were eventually banned in the United States because of concerns for health.
“At least as early as the 1951s, Monsanto knew, or should have known based on its knowledge of the environmental risks associated with related chlorinated hydrocarbons … that its PCB formulations would inevitably volatilize and leach, leak, and escape their intended applications,” the complaint says, alleging Monsanto should have known PCBs would persist in the environment and cause lasting damage.
The press release says the District of Columbia has identified 36 bodies of water with high levels of PCBs, including the Potomac River, and contaminated fish in the District’s waters. It says the District has spent millions of dollars already to clean the PCB pollution and anticipates the cost to be hundreds of millions of dollars.