A lawsuit was filed against Monsanto and local officials after families and teachers allege they were “sickened at a school outside of Seattle.” According to the lawsuit, which was filed earlier this week in King County Superior Court, local officials and Monsanto “allowed the school site to grow toxic with the use of the now-banned industrial chemicals known as PCBs.” As a result, many parents claim “their children’s health deteriorated while they attended Sky Valley Education Center, an alternative K-12 school in Monroe, Washington.”
At the time the lawsuit was filed, 36 individuals were suing with a number of different ailments being reported. Among the reported ailments are “bloody noses and severe headaches that disappeared when school was out, and long-term thyroid, gastrointestinal and skin problems, among other health problems.” Additionally, some individuals not represented in the lawsuit allegedly “developed cancers that proved fatal” in some cases.
One of the plaintiffs is Stacy Mullen-DeLand. Between 2011 and 2015, she worked as a part-time Spanish teacher when her two children attended the school. According to her, her “family’s doctor found they were suffering from chemical poisoning, which she blames on the building environment.”
But what are PCBs? Why are they so dangerous? For starters, PCBs, otherwise known as polychlorinated biphenyls, “were used in industrial and commercial applications.” For example, “in many schools built or remodeled before 1980, PCBs were used in fluorescent lights, flooring adhesives, paint, ceiling tiles and caulking around doors and windows.” Unfortunately, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has since discovered that PCBs can “cause a variety of health problems, including cancer in animals as well as effects on the immune, nervous and reproductive systems.”
So how has Monsanto and the Monroe School District responded to the lawsuit? Well, so far Monsanto issued an email saying the “case lacks merit.” It also added that the “company voluntarily stopped making and selling PCBs more than 40 years ago,” and added that “at the time Monsanto manufactured PCBs, they were a legal and approved product used in many useful applications.”
The school district also pushed back and “rejected the claim that officials were negligent in maintaining and inspecting the property.” In a statement, the district said “it has aggressively and proactively worked to clean up possible pollution since air quality concerns were first raised in 2013.” Additionally, the attorney for the district, Patricia Buchanan, said “officials consulted with experts, tested and cleaned all potentially affected fixtures and replaced and retrofitted parts of the buildings.” She added that “recent testing showed no detectable levels of PCBs.”
Other defendants named in the suit include the state of Washington and Snohomish Health District.