by Claire Bernish, Activist Post:
Monsanto has essentially been gifted a free pass with legislation intended to protect people and the environment. Monsanto will enjoy immunity from responsibility for one of the most noxious of all its toxic creations: PCBs.
Slipped into already-contentious reform measures of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act by the House of Representatives, the provision concerns now-banned polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which, in the United States, were manufactured nearly exclusively by Monsanto. Though the Environmental Protection Agency banned the substances in the 1979, from the early 1930s through 1977, the agrichemical goliath produced around 1.25 billion pounds — of which an estimated 10 percent continues to wreak havoc on human health and the environment.
Originally used as insulation material against fires and explosions in electrical transformers and other electrical equipment, PCBs became so broadly popular they made their way into paints, inks, adhesives, surface coatings, lubricants, electronics, and more. PCBs evaporate naturally from contaminated natural features, such as the Great Lakes, but may also be released into the air via incineration, or water supply through leaching from municipal waste. When mounting evidence pointed toward environmental PCB contamination as a cause of immune-system illnesses and cancers, the EPA implemented their ban in 1979.
Now, the question of liability — for present as well as potential future cases — has become a key concern in reworking the Toxic Substances Act. Underlying the remaining disputes between the House and Senate versions of the bill is the question of preemption, or defining who will be able to sue for damage caused by the chemical industry; and which body will be tasked with industry regulation.
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