DeWine files lawsuit for damage caused by toxins

Staff reports

CINCINNATI — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today filed a lawsuit against Monsanto for producing and selling toxic chemical compounds known as PCBs for decades, while knowing of the hazards they posed. The lawsuit seeks compensation and damages for Ohio, including funding for a statewide plan to investigate and remove PCBs from the state’s natural resources.

“Ohioans deserve to enjoy their natural resources without contamination from these toxic chemicals, and we believe Monsanto should be held responsible for the damage it caused,” DeWine said. “Our goal in taking this action is to protect Ohio, its citizens, and its natural resources.”

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are chemical compounds that Monsanto manufactured and sold from 1929 to 1977 for use in a variety of applications, such as paints, inks, caulks, sealants, lubricants, electrical equipment and carbonless copy paper, including use by manufacturing operations in Ohio. Rather than breaking down over time, PCBs tend to build up in living things and contaminate the food chain. Currently, dozens of rivers, creeks, lakes, ponds and other bodies of water in Ohio are contaminated with PCBs. Contamination also has been found in fish, soil, plants and air.

In humans, PCBs are associated with cancer, skin and eye disorders, reduced birth weight, liver damage and other adverse health effects. Humans can be exposed to PCBs by eating contaminated fish, breathing contaminated air or swimming in contaminated water, for example.

According to the lawsuit, Monsanto learned that its PCBs were toxic to humans in the 1930s, yet it kept producing them for decades, while concealing the dangers, denying the toxicity and failing to give reasonable warnings about the hazards they posed to the environment. The Attorney General’s lawsuit alleges, among several counts, that Monsanto was negligent and created a public nuisance through its manufacture, distribution and sale of PCBs. In the lawsuit, the Attorney General seeks relief, including damages for harm to Ohio’s natural resources (including the economic impact), and an award of present and future costs to clean up PCB contamination.

Filed in the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, the lawsuit names as defendants Monsanto Co. and two related companies, Solutia Inc. (which assumed operations of the original Monsanto company’s chemical business) and Pharmacia LLC (the successor to the original Monsanto company).

Between 1926 and 1977, Monsanto produced 99 percent or more all of PCBs in the U.S., according to the lawsuit. It marketed PCBs under the brand name Aroclor.

A copy of the lawsuit is available on the Ohio Attorney General’s website.

Staff reports