The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Pollution is profitable

Mar 29, 2004

Twenty thousand plaintiffs in the PCB lawsuit against Monsanto Chemical Company were informed they will each get a few thousand dollars in the settlement reached on August 20, 2004. At issue was pollution in the bodies and properties of people in Anniston, Alabama where Monsanto had a PCB plant until 1971. For 40 years it produced the deadly chemical and dumped waste products into the rivers and creeks there.

PCBs are man-made chemicals used as electrical fluids. They were finally banned by the federal government in 1979. But corporations knew much earlier that PCBs were linked to the possible development of cancer, cerebral palsy and other health problems.

And Monsanto knew about these problems, as shown in internal documents dating back to 1938, when a researcher found that animals exposed to PCBs developed liver damage. But the company continued to use and dump PCBs for decades.

Monsanto is hardly alone in creating a toxic mess. The second worst toxic waste site in the U.S. is New York's Hudson River. It too is full of toxic contaminants from PCB production by General Electric between 1947 and 1977 in a plant along the Hudson.

Even if these corporations had all stopped dumping PCBs and other toxic wastes which they haven't the damage they caused still affects the food chain today. These contaminants remain in the water, air and ground. A July report by the Environmental Working Group found high levels of PCBs in 60% of the salmon it purchased to test. In 1999 the catfish in the Potomac River, on the boundary of Washington D.C., were put on an advisory list for PCB contaminants.

Nonetheless, the main sanction against companies like Monsanto and GE has only been these lawsuits and clean-up costs which are only a slap on the wrist.

To make it worse, Monsanto was allowed, a few years ago, to create a subsidiary Solutia in order to dump Monsanto's liability for health lawsuits and clean-up costs. It won't begin to pay the full costs of overcoming the disaster Monsanto created.

Monsanto and GE continue to be some of the most profitable companies around. Companies which poison us should have all their profits taken away from them and all their property, if they don't cooperate.