Maryland files lawsuit against Monsanto for harm caused by manufactured toxic PCB chemicals

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against agrichemical company Monsanto, alleging that it manufactured toxic chemicals called polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) that it knew were harmful to the environment. 

“Despite knowing as early as 1937 that PCBs were toxic to humans and animals and that PCBs could escape into and contaminate the environment, Monsanto manufactured and sold PCBs continuously until they were finally banned under federal law,” the lawsuit said.

“Even when Monsanto had overwhelming evidence of the hazards that PCBs create, Monsanto continued to produce and sell these toxic chemicals throughout the country, including in the State of Maryland,” the lawsuit added. “Monsanto’s own internal documents show that it was not interested in protecting people or the environment. Rather, its only concern was in protecting its balance sheet.”

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The lawsuit, which was also filed against pharmaceutical and biotechnical company Pharmacia and chemicals manufacturer Solutia, alleged that Maryland’s ecosystem, including its rivers and land, are still polluted with the toxic chemicals.

“According to water quality data from 2018, approximately 968 square miles of the State’s estuarine waters are impaired by PCB contamination. In addition, approximately 262 miles of Maryland’s rivers and streams, and approximately 3,147 acres of the State’s lakes and reservoirs, are similarly impaired,” the lawsuit said.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), before the manufacturing of PCBs was banned in 1979, they were used in various commercial applications, including in rubber products, dyes and hydraulic equipment. 

The EPA noted that the chemicals cause cancer in animals and research suggests they are a probable carcinogen for humans.      

"Monsanto voluntarily ceased its lawful manufacturing of PCBs more than 40 years ago, and never manufactured, used, or disposed of PCBs into Maryland’s lands or waters, and therefore should not be held liable for the contamination alleged by the state," German pharmaceutical company Bayer AG said in a statement.

"Where it has been determined that those cleanups are necessary, federal, and state authorities employ an effective system to identify dischargers and allocate clean-up responsibilities. Litigation of the sort brought by the state risks undermining these efforts,” Bayer added.

The Hill has reached out to Eastman Chemical Company, the parent company of Solutia, and Pfizer, which Pharmacia merged with in 2003, for comment.