Jury Orders Monsanto to Pay Seattle School Employees $165 Million Over PCBs

The employees claimed PCBs leaked from the school’s light fixtures that caused them cancer, brain injuries, and other issues.

Monroe, Washington – Bayer’s Monsanto has been ordered by a jury to pay $165 million to employees of the Sky Valley Education Center who said polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, which were made by the company, made them ill.

The six teachers and a custodian who were employed at Sky Valley Education Center claimed PCBs leaked from the school’s light fixtures that caused them cancer, brain injuries, and other issues, reports Reuters. The jury found Monsanto liable for selling products containing PCBs that weren’t safe and didn’t have adequate warnings.

PCBs are a group of man-made organic chemicals that were commercially manufactured from 1929 until production was banned in 1979 because they harm humans and the environment. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), products that may contain PCBs include:

  • Transformers and capacitors
  • Electrical equipment including voltage regulators, switches, re-closers, bushings, and electromagnets
  • Oil used in motors and hydraulic systems
  • Old electrical devices or appliances containing PCB capacitors
  • Fluorescent light ballasts
  • Cable insulation
  • Thermal insulation material including fiberglass, felt, foam and cork
  • Adhesives and tapes
  • Oil-based paint
  • Caulking
  • Plastics
  • Carbonless copy paper
  • Floor finish

The jury in the Sky Valley case awarded nearly $50 million in compensatory damages and $115 million in punitive damages. This is the latest trial loss for Monsanto, which now faces $870 million in verdicts related to alleged PCB exposure. The company is appealing the verdicts.

PCBs are a nationwide problem. Poe Hall at North Carolina State University was evacuated last week, reports ABC11. Testing of the hall, which was prompted by air quality complaints, confirmed the presence of PCBs. Although the building was closed on Friday, WRAL reports that the school had known about the PCB contamination for over a month.

The state of Vermont is working to address the problem. Last year it launched a first-in-the-nation pilot program for PCBs, reports WCAX. The program has resulted in dozens of schools being identified as requiring cleanup.

For example, high levels of PCBs were discovered at Burlington High School in 2020. At another high school, about 100 classrooms were found to have high levels of the chemicals. An elementary school in Brighton also had high levels of PCBs.

In June, Vermont’s attorney general announced the state is suing Monsanto over the issue.

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About the Author

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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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