Polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs were widely used for a variety of industrial and commercial applications during the 1920s until the late 1970s. These chemical compounds solely manufactured by Monsanto were primarily used as coolants and insulators for electrical equipment. They were also used as ingredients in several commercial products and construction materials. PCBs were believed to be highly beneficial until reports of safety concerns and environmental issues came to light. In 1979, the United States federal government imposed a ban on PCBs to ensure that the destruction it caused to the environment can be properly mitigated.
PCBs were solely manufactured in the U.S. by Monsanto. The chemical industry giant produced PCBs in a factory in Anniston, Alabama and used its water sources as a dumping ground for chemical waste. While it was largely believed that PCBs were safe and had little impact on the environment, there were several documents that showed that Monsanto was long aware of the negative effects caused by their product. Despite research results from independent studies commissioned by the company, Monsanto continued their operations until public pressure caused to cease PCB production two years before the government’s ban. According to The Washington Post, one study from 1966 examined how fish reacted to the contaminated waters of Snow Creek. The researchers found that “all 25 fish lost equilibrium and turned on their sides in 10 seconds and all were dead in 3 1/2 minutes” and concluded that creek has been made “extremely toxic” by the wasted dumped there by Monsanto.
The scientific community continued its examination of the devastating environmental effects of PCBs after the federal ban. The results are all conclusive, showing that the widely used chemical substance is highly toxic and dangerous. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry summarizes these findings by saying that PCBs are particularly harmful due to the fact that it doesn’t break down easily and can continue to exist in the environment for a long time. It can also easily spread by affecting the wildlife living in affected areas. Smaller animals contaminated with PCB risk contaminating the predators that hunt them for food. As a result, PCBs tend to spread through the food chain and accumulate at very high levels.
For more information about PCBs and the pollution in the Anniston area, visit the following link: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/21/business/700-million-settlement-in-alabama-pcb-lawsuit.html.