Friday 7 July 2023

Over 90 school districts sue Monsanto over toxic chemical contamination found in campus buildings: ‘Hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars’ to resolve

 More than 90 Vermont school districts filed a lawsuit on Friday in federal court against the chemical company Monsanto after finding toxic contamination in school buildings, the Associated Press reported.

Vermont passed a law in 2022 requiring all schools built before 1980 to test for possible polychlorinated biphenyls, also known as PCBs. While the state’s testing will not be concluded until 2027, nearly 100 districts have already filed a complaint against Monsanto. 

The man-made chemicals were manufactured from 1929 through 1979, when certain uses were banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Substances Control Act.

The chemicals were used in building materials and electrical equipment, including caulk, paint, glues, plastics, capacitors, and fluorescent light ballasts. PCB oil can be found in old lighting ballasts, which could leak or emit dangerous vapors. Additionally, PCB found in building materials could be released into the air and dust.

The chemicals, now classified as a carcinogen, have been linked to severe health risks, including nervous, immune, reproductive, and endocrine damage. 

One Vermont high school was forced to shutter its doors after dangerously high levels of PCBs were found. Students and faculty were forced to move classes to a closed-down department store in March 2021. 

The nearly 100 Vermont school districts taking legal action against Monsanto are seeking damages to cover the exorbitant costs of removing the toxic chemicals or demolishing and replacing contaminated school buildings. According to the districts’ lawsuit, the repair costs could total “hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars.”

Monsanto claims that the districts’ complaint has no merit because “third party companies, not Monsanto,” produced the products containing PCBs.

In a Monday statement, the company said, “Monsanto never manufactured, used or disposed of PCBs in Vermont and has not manufactured these products for more than 45 years.”

Monsanto is asking for an emergency hearing and the preservation of evidence. The company also requested to participate in the districts’ testing and oversee restoration work.

Last month, Monsanto was sued by the Vermont attorney general over contamination of school buildings and natural resources, including high levels of PCBs found in sediment and wildlife. The company maintained that the lawsuit had no merit.

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