BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CN) - A city school system says Pharmacia Corp. should pay for removal of all fluorescent light fixtures because they have toxic PCB's.
Tuscumbia City School System sued Pharmacia in a federal class action.
"On December 29, 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency recommended that every school system in the United States remove the ballasts from every fluorescent light fixture in every school built before 1979 because of the presence of the toxic chemical Polychlorinated Biphenyls ('PCBs')," the complaint states. "Monsanto, now known as Pharmacia, manufactured the PCBs in all those ballasts. Monsanto intentionally marketed PCBs for use in fluorescent light fixtures while knowing that PCBs were toxic, that failing ballasts would release PCBs into classrooms, and that PCBs could cause systemic toxic injuries. Because Monsanto was negligent, reckless and wanton, it should bear the burden of replacing the ballasts."
Monsanto merged with Pharmacia in 2000. Pharmacia is a wholly owned subsidiary of Pfizer. "Accordingly, Pharmacia is the former Monsanto Company. As used herein, Pharmacia is referred to as 'Monsanto,'" the complaint states.
Fluorescent light ballasts regulate the flow of electricity in the lamps.
"Essentially all ballasts manufactured for fluorescent light fixtures before 1979 contain liquid PCBs," according to the complaint. "It has been at all relevant times generally known that ballasts leak and fail, that in normal operations ballasts get hot, and that often they overheat when they fail. At all relevant times, Monsanto knew that ballasts manufactured before 1979 contained liquid PCBs and knew that ballasts leak and fail. Monsanto also knew ballasts often overheat when they fail. Monsanto knew that failing ballasts would release PCBs into classrooms.
"PCBs can enter the body in numerous ways. One way that PCBs enter the body is through skin contact, which is hazardous. PCBs also can vaporize, particularly when heated, permitting them to be breathed. Breathing PCBs is hazardous. PCBs that get on children's hands are likely to be transferred from their hands to their mouths, and ingestion of PCBs is hazardous.
"PCBs are a man-made organic chemical. They do not exist in nature. The PCB problem is caused purely by man, and in this country purely by Monsanto.
"Monsanto was the sole U.S. manufacturer of PCBs. There were essentially no imported PCBs. Monsanto was therefore the sole manufacturer of the PCBs contained in the fluorescent light fixtures at issue in this case.
"Monsanto manufactured PCBs in the United States from 1929 until 1979 at which time the United States Congress banned their further manufacture. Every nation in the world has outlawed the manufacturing of PCBs.
"The Toxic Substances Control Act specifically outlaws the manufacture of PCBs. PCBs are the only toxic substance whose manufacture is specifically outlawed by this act."
Citing an EPA publication, "Basic Information on PCBs," the Tuscumbia schools add: "'PCBs have been demonstrated to cause cancer, as well as a variety of other adverse health effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, and endocrine system.'
"In children, exposure to PCBs has been shown to adversely affect the endocrine and cognitive systems. In particular, children exposed to PCBs have been shown to exhibit reduced IQs and changed behaviors.