Yesterday we left off in 1966, with Mississippi State’s Professor of Zoology asking the following key question to Monsanto:
“Can your people tell us what is going into Snow Creek?”
Thankfully 1966 was a big year for people finally starting to ask questions like this, and the answer of course, among other things, was PCBs. That professor’s letter was by no means an isolated one, as Monsanto was contacted from other parts of the world even regarding damage from PCBs. Press coverage started to pour in as well.
Now let’s move forward to September 1969, and a document from W.R. Richard. This is actually the first time in my research when I actually saw talk of extensive action, but unfortunately it occurred 80% of the way into PCBs production run. The document mentions varying actions for multiple customers using Aroclor in different capacities, but it starts with this fun statement:
“Make the Govt, States and Universities prove their case, but avoid as much confrontation as possible. Comply and work with public officials to meet or exceed requirements ahead of time. Adverse publicity and competition are the real weapons.”
So just to be clear, the epic toxin that Monsanto had been contaminating the planet with for the past 40 years, THAT was not the real weapon. Adverse publicity, however, was a killer.
Just a bit further down in that same document, there’s a Probable Outcome section, and it said:
“We can prove some things are OK at low concentration. Give Monsanto some defense.
We can’t defend vs. everything. Some animals or fish or insects will be harmed.
Aroclor degradation rate will be slow. Tough to defend against.”
Then a little further in, they again discuss the Monsanto plants in Illinois and Alabama:
“The Dept. of Interior and/or State authorities could monitor plant outfall and find ppm of chlorinated biphenyls at Krummrich or Anniston anytime they choose to do so. This would shut us down depending on what plants or animals they choose to find harmed.”
They do at least finally talk about trying to fix things at Anniston and Krummrich though:
“Take steps to see that every precaution is taken to prevent Aroclor from entering water streams. Try to reduce ppb level.”
40 Years Later
And then in that document, there are beginning steps and initial plans noted for different customers, and it goes on for the majority of the document, which is actually 10 pages. On p.8, however, there’s a section referencing Chronic Toxicity Studies, indicating work to be done by Wheeler and Keller. It states:
“Continue studies to establish FDA type limits of toxicity on Aroclor 1242, Aroclor 1254 and Aroclor 1260.”
So understand, 40 years down the road, after dumping millions and millions of pounds of PCBs into the world, hey I think we should really establish some toxicity limits. Just throwing that out there, might be a good idea. They also mention setting up biodegradation studies as well. Again, 40 years later, after dumping millions and millions of pounds into the environment.
Now although that September 1969 document does sound disturbing in some ways, on the bright side, it sounded like Monsanto was finally paying serious attention to what was happening. So as I was chronologically researching, I started to feel as if September 1969 was kind of a watershed moment for Monsanto, and that until the nail finally hit the PCB coffin ten years later… they would take things down a significantly different path.
But then there’s this document labeled “Report of Aroclor Ad Hoc Committee”, dated October 2, 1969, less than a month after that “watershed moment”. And the strange thing about this typed report is that it has August 25th handwritten in as a reference to the date of the actual meeting these notes were about. It looks as if whoever updated the document was trying to suggest that these notes were written up almost a month and a half AFTER the actual meeting. And then on p.7, there’s a reference to a frequently-cited San Francisco Chronicle article from September 24, 1969, but September is crossed off and February is handwritten in its place.