Monsanto ordered to pay $857 million to Washington school students and parent volunteers for toxic PCBs


Monsanto was ordered Monday to pay $857 million to a group of seven former students and parent volunteers at a Washington state school who claimed the company's chemicals made them sick.

The sentence, which was reported by Bloomberg, AFP, Reuters and other media outlets, comes as Monsanto faces thousands of lawsuits over its herbicide chemical Roundup. Last month, the company was sentenced to pay 332 million dollars to a man who said Roundup caused him cancer.

In the most recent case, former students and parent volunteers claimed that exposure to Monsanto's polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from fluorescent lamps caused a range of health problems, including brain damage and autoimmune disorders. PCBs, whose production was banned in 1979 due to their toxicity, were commonly used in caulking, light fixtures and other parts of buildings between the 1950s and 1970s, according to the Massachusetts Office of Climate and Environmental Health.

An attorney for the plaintiffs, Henry Jones, told CBS News, “No one who heard this evidence would ever trade places with any of these people for all the money the jury awarded.”

The jury ordered the company to pay a total of $73 million in compensation and $784 million in punitive damages to five former students and two parent volunteers at the Sky Valley Education Center, located north of Seattle, according to AFP.

In a statement to CBS MoneyWatch, Monsanto said it disagreed with the verdict and plans to appeal. “We disagree with the verdict and will file post-trial motions and appeals to vacate this verdict and reduce the constitutionally excessive damages awarded,” a Monsanto spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

“The objective evidence in this case, including blood, air and other tests, demonstrates that the plaintiffs were not exposed to dangerous levels of PCBs, and that PCBs could not have caused their alleged injuries,” the spokesperson added.

The company, which is now owned by German pharmaceutical giant Bayer, said it recently won a personal injury lawsuit in Illinois with similar claims.

Still, Monsanto faces additional PCB lawsuits, including one from the state of Vermont which alleged that the chemical company knew that its PCB formulations were toxic and could cause harm to humans.

Burlington School District in Vermont has also demanded Monsanto over PCBs, claiming the company should pay to build a new high school after it had to abandon the city's high school due to PCB levels that exceeded state limits.

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