Maryland AG Sues Monsanto Over State’s PCB Contamination

Maryland AG Sues Monsanto Over State's PCB Contamination Maryland AG Sues Monsanto Over State's PCB Contamination (Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images)

By Charles Kim | Wednesday, 24 November 2021 08:59 PM

Maryland is the latest state to sue chemical manufacturer Monsanto for contaminating the state’s “land, water, and wildlife” with cancer causing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), according to the complaint filed in Baltimore Tuesday.

The suit, which seeks an unspecified amount in damages and cleanup costs, alleges that Monsanto, who produced the chemicals between 1929-79, knew the dangers to the environment and humans, but continued to increase production, polluting the state.

“As the complaint alleges, Monsanto knew that PCBs were toxic and harmful to the environment, wildlife, and humans,” Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said in a press release announcing the lawsuit Tuesday. “Monsanto not only continued to manufacture and sell PCBs but increased production even when the harm to the environment was undeniable. Monsanto’s toxic legacy lives on. Until today, Marylanders have borne the cost of cleaning up these poisons. It is time for Monsanto to take full responsibility.”

PCBs are light-yellow colored crystalline compounds that were extensively used in various commercial products, including hydraulic fluids, heat transfer fluids, and insulating fluids for electrical components like capacitors, until they were banned in 1979 for being toxic.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, PCBs have been shown to cause cancer as well as other adverse health conditions in humans and animals, impacting the nervous system, immune system, and reproductive system.

“This is an important and necessary step to hold Monsanto accountable so the state can continue to make progress in preventing toxic pollution and recovering from decades of damage,” Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles said in the release.

International company Bayer AG, who purchased Monsanto in 2018, issued a statement to The Hill, saying that the company has not made PCB chemicals since the 1979 ban, and has never disposed of the chemicals in any Maryland water or land.

"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 the statement to The Hill. "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.”

Two other chemical companies, Solutia, and Pharmacia were also named as defendants in the lawsuit.