Monsanto and PCBs

Eric Lipton for the New York Times – Chemical Safety Bill Could Help Protect Monsanto Against Legal Claims:

Facing hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits, the giant biotechnology company Monsanto last year received a legislative gift from the House of Representatives, a one-paragraph addition to a sweeping chemical safety bill that could help shield it from legal liability for a toxic chemical only it made.

Before this article, I didn’t realize that Monsanto produced these chemicals.

…between the early 1930s and 1977, Monsanto manufactured almost all of the 1.25 billion pounds of PCBs sold in the United States.

The chemicals were initially admired for their ability to prevent fires and explosions in electrical transformers and other equipment. But as the use of PCBs skyrocketed nationwide in products as varied as paints, pesticides and even carbonless copy paper, evidence mounted that they were contaminating the environment and potentially causing health problems including cancer and immune-system complications. The E.P.A. banned their production in 1979.

Ms. Lord says Monsanto bears no responsibility for cleanup costs in cities like Seattle, San Jose and San Diego.

“PCBs served an important fire-protection and safety purpose,” she said in a written statement. “If these products were improperly disposed of, Monsanto is not responsible.”

If we didn’t know that PCBs were dangerous to human health, should Monsanto still be held liable? Or was Monsanto still producing and selling PCBs with the knowledge, and before the ban? What’s the prior precedent on these types of issues?