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Posted by Brian on May 2, 2015

The Dark History of Monsanto PCBs

Polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs have long been known as highly toxic substances. In 1979, the United States federal government issued a ban on the use and manufacture of the synthetic chemical compounds that were widely used as industrial insulators and cooling agents for most of the 20th century. At that time, PCBs were solely manufactured in America by a company called Monsanto and were found to have been worth around $22 million in yearly sales. As a result, Monsanto enjoyed an almost four decade run as a giant in the chemical industry. However, this monopoly came to an abrupt end when concerns about health risks and environmental effects found its way into public discourse.

From the 1940s until the late 1970s, Monsanto PCBs were produced in a chemical plant located at the west side of Anniston, City Alabama. In that time, several Anniston creeks were used as a dumping ground for chemical waste from the production of PCBs. At first, Monsanto didn’t seem to have been aware of the negative effects caused by the toxic chemical compounds. However, internal reports and communications show that Monsanto quickly became informed of the pollution they were causing. As pointed out by an expose published by The Washington Post, Monsanto has been aware of the devastating environmental effects caused by PCBs as early as 1966, when they hired a group of scientists to examine one of the creeks contaminated by the chemicals. The results regarding Snow Creek were as follows: “All 25 fish lost equilibrium and turned on their sides in 10 seconds and all were dead in 3 1/2 minutes”. Despite this knowledge, Monsanto continued to produce PCBs until two years before the government imposed ban.

Today, the City of Anniston continues to feel the devastating effects of PCB contamination. Aside from the creeks that were originally used by Monsanto as toxic waste dumping grounds, the chemicals also spread to and contaminated other water sources as the years went by. More than 3 decades later, residents of Anniston are struggling with risks associated with PCB exposure such as cancer, liver damage, and issues with the reproductive, nervous, endocrine, and immune systems.

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