January 4, 2006
General Electric workers sue Monsanto over PCBs
By Carey Gillam
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - More than 500 General
Electric Co. employees have sued Monsanto Co. and two related
companies, claiming they were exposed to toxic chemicals
manufactured for decades by Monsanto, the company said
is now owned by Pfizer Inc., and bankrupt Solutia Inc. and was
filed in mid-December by 590 current employees of a General
Electric plant in Schenectady, New York, said Monsanto
spokesman Glynn Young.
The suit claims personal injury and fear of future disease
related to contamination by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs),
which were banned by Congress in 1978 and found to be harmful
to human health.
The suit claims the hazardous chemicals have been leaking
from creek beds and landfills in recent years, exposing the GE
workers, according to Young.
A copy of the lawsuit was not immediately available.
"They are alleging exposure to chemicals, specifically
PCBs, and they are asking for actual and punitive damages,"
Monsanto was served with the lawsuit the last week of
December and disclosed the details Wednesday in conjunction
with release of its first-quarter earnings.
Young said any liability likely rested with General
Electric, which used Monsanto's PCBs for heat transfer fluids
used with electrical transformers and was responsible for
disposal of the chemicals.
"We're confident that we've got no liability for these
claims. Where the liability is, if there is liability, will be
determined over time," Young said.
Monsanto manufactured PCBs from 1935 to 1977 and the GE
worker lawsuit is but one of a series of claims alleging
Monsanto and Solutia are currently involved in cleaning up
PCB-contaminated homes and property in Alabama after the
companies were hit with $600 million in damages related to PCB
Monsanto spun off its chemicals business as Solutia in
1997. Solutia filed for bankruptcy protection in 2003, claiming
Monsanto-related chemical liability issues contributed to its
Pharmacia is involved because it acquired Monsanto in 2000.
Monsanto then was spun off as an independent agricultural
products and technology company in 2002.
Blue-chip conglomerate General Electric had no immediate
comment on the claims and neither Solutia nor Pharmacia
representatives could provide immediate comment.