Toxic Education: Monsanto and the 26,000 Poisonous Public Schools it Poisoned
By Kurtis Bright
How Monsanto Is on the Hook for 26,000 Toxic Schools
You just can’t outrun your past. Wherever you go, there you are, complete with the litany of all the bad things you have ever done locked inside you.
It is a simple truism of life that we come to grips with more and more the older we get--or maybe it’s just that we have more accumulated past to contend with.
Either way, the big bosses at agrichem giant Monsanto are finding this to be more true than ever as scrutiny of the company is heating up with the news proposed merger with Bayer.
And any way you cut it, the company has had a rather...colorful past, shall we say. Ranging from their early days in the late 1800s and early 1900s when they worked tirelessly at popularizing saccharin despite its false promise of weight loss as a sugar substitute--and in the process fighting a decades-long court battle against allowing the proof of saccharin’s cancer-causing properties to force it from the market.
Then there’s the assist they provided on the Manhattan Project, from which experience working with the military they then pivoted to developing other tools of war, such as Agent Orange and white phosphorus. And of course there’s today, with the company gleefully blanketing the earth and everything growing on it with cancer-causing glyphosate and replacing natural systems with genetically modified crops.
There are not many companies that have wreaked so much havoc on the lives of so many people for so long.
But one oft-overlooked slice of the toxic cake that is Monsanto’s checkered history is now coming into the limelight once again: the company’s association with the manufacture of PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls.
Once widely used in electronics and as an industrial sealant, PCBs have long been the cause of numerous municipal lawsuits as cities try to force the company to pay for the cleanup of the now-toxic wetlands it has befouled with the stuff.
But the latest is that Monsanto may be on the hook for the clean up of at least 26,000 U.S. schools that still have PCBs in their caulking, sealants, and other building materials--PCBs that could still be leaching out in affecting students nationwide.
By some estimates, nearly 14 million students may be affected by the leaks, which represents some 30 percent of the total student population.
That could spell big lawsuits for Monsanto.
PCB is an endocrine disruptor and cancer-causing agent, exposure to which is known to cause skin conditions, liver damage, ocular lesions, lowered immune response, fatigue, headaches, and coughs, and in the children of women who are exposed it can cause cognitive development issues and motor control problems in their offspring.
Despite the fact that the company’s decades-long battle to keep PCBs legal (boy, does that ever sound familiar) ended in 1979 when the Environmental Protection Agency finally banned their manufacture, numberous older buildings across the nation still contain construction materials and wiring containing PCBs.
The angle on schools in particular comes out of the offices of U.S. Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass), the Environmental Working Group, and America Unites Kids.
And the news ain’t good: at minimum some 12,960 schools contain PCB-laden caulk, and that number could be as high as 25,920.
“That number comes by looking back at those periods of time where public schools were most extensively built. About 60 percent of the schools were built from 1950 to the early '80s, the time when PCBs were most commonly used in building materials,” wrote primary author and researcher at Harvard School of Public Health Robert Herrick.
Studies have shown that people can be exposed to PCBs by simply touching contaminated surfaces, and possibly even by inhaling PCB-laden dust. In schools that were constructed so long ago, it is a near-certainty that some such dust exists.
One can only hope that this latest round of Monsanto PCB disclosures and pending lawsuits will finally put a stake in the heart of this vile company that has visited so much evil on humankind.