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Poisoned By PCBs: Thirty Years Later, Court Documents Reveal Monsanto's Toll on an Alabama Town

Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 anniston's PCBs in the press

Q: Did Monsanto ever provide the residents of Anniston with any data concerning the health hazards of PCBs in humans?
A: Uh-uh (indicating no). Why would they?

- William B. Papageorge, Monsanto Manager of Environmental Control, Deposition of March 31, 1998 (view entire document)

Most folks in Anniston, Alabama didn't give a second thought to why Snow Creek often ran red or purple. Their children played in this creek and the waterways it fed. They ate fish from them. Their livestock drank from them.

Like the residents of many small towns who are dependent on a single local industry, the people of Anniston were not eager to bite the hand that fed them. They may have known that the Monsanto Co. plant on the west side of town dumped its waste into Snow Creek and that the waste entered other local waterways, but few of Anniston's 30,000 residents thought of the plant as anything other than a valuable source of jobs.

Documents that emerged from a court case in 2000 show that Monsanto knew the truth: The plant was also the source of thousands of pounds a year of potentially deadly polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. For nearly forty years, unfiltered and untreated PCB waste was discharged directly into streams or dumped in landfills around town. Monsanto employees also carried the chemical, sold under the brand name Aroclor, home on their work clothes.

Monsanto stopped making PCBs at Anniston in 1971. Five years later, with the signing of the Toxic Substances Control Act, PCBs were banned as a suspected cause of cancer. But company documents show that for more than two decades after ending production, Monsanto withheld frightening, detailed information about the contamination in Anniston. The documents also show that some state officials knew about the PCB problem, but did nothing to protect the people of Anniston or towns downstream.

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last updated: march.27.2009

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