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What are PCBs?

Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are a group of artificial chemicals now banned from production in the United States. There are over 200 “varieties” of PCBs. PCBs belong to a class of chemical compounds called organochlorines, which are also known as “chlorinated hydrocarbons.” Almost all organochlorines, including PCBs, are very persistent substances. That means they can take decades to break down once released into the environment.

In fact, because they are so persistent, PCBs are still found in our environment, our foods, and our bodies today, even though they have been banned by the Environmental Protection Agency since 1979.

To determine whether PCBs caused your non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, call 888-990-6376 today.

How were PCBs Used?

For several decades, PCBs were used in a number of industrial processes and products. In the United States, PCBs were mainly produced by a company called Monsanto, which sold them under the trade name “Aroclor.”

Monsanto began making Aroclor (PCBs) in the 1930s, after buying the Swann Chemical Company. From the 1930s to the 1970s, Monsanto sold several types, of Aroclor products, and those different Aroclors contained various combinations of the specific “congeners,” or varieties, of PCBs. Monsanto’s PCBs were used as:

  • Coolants in electrical transformers and capacitors
  • Sealants and adhesives
  • Plasticizers for paints and cement
  • Stabilizers for paints and finishes
  • Additives in PVC, hydraulic fluid, and lubricating oil
  • Other industrial and manufacturing uses

Unfortunately, like most industrial waste in the 1930s through the 1960s, PCBs often were dumped into the environment. Internal company memos show that Monsanto was aware of PCB pollution by at least the early 1960s, but the company knew of environmental problems created by similar chemicals much earlier. By the early 1950s, scientists knew that organochlorines build up in the environment and are stored in the fat tissue of animals and people. For example, scientists discovered that human breast milk contained DDT in the early 1950s. DDT is an organochlorine, like PCBs. In 1966, a Swedish study found that PCBs had contaminated the food chain, and that PCBs were found in birds, fish, and people. By 1968, even Monsanto’s own research concluded that PCB contamination was “substantial, widespread, and alarming.”

Why are PCBs Dangerous?

Scientific research has long shown that polychlorinated biphenyls are toxic to both animals and humans. Since the 1930s, PCBs have been linked to severe skin damage and liver damage. By the 1970s, PCBs were also linked with birth defects in animals and cancer.

Several recent peer-reviewed scientific studies also show that high PCB blood levels can cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), a group of cancers affecting the immune system. Because this research is fairly new, many people with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and even their doctors, may not be aware of the connection with PCBs.

If you are living with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and are interested in finding out – free of charge – whether PCBs caused your cancer, click here.

Did Monsanto Know How Dangerous PCBs Were?

The dangers of PCBs began surfacing almost as soon as Monsanto began manufacturing and selling Aroclor in the 1930s. By 1934, several workers involved in making Aroclor developed severe cases of dermatitis. In 1937, Monsanto internal memos began discussing the link between PCBs and severe skin damage and acute liver atrophy.

The evidence kept piling up. Internal memos from 1954 show that Monsanto was aware that even exposure to “negligible” amounts of PCB could be dangerous over time. In the late 1960s, Monsanto’s research confirmed that the outflow from their PCB manufacturing plants contained “extremely toxic materials and kills fish in less than 24 hours.”

In 1969, over a thousand Japanese citizens succumbed to “Yusho oil disease” – a condition caused by eating PCB-contaminated rice oil.

By 1975, several scientific studies showed that PCBs were carcinogenic: cancer-causing agents. Monsanto’s own testing firm admitted only that PCBs were “tumorigenic.” The lab was later discredited for using unsound methods.

Production of PCBs was banned in 1979.

How Can I Find Out if PCBs Caused My Cancer?

If you want to find out whether PCBs were a cause of your non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, we can help. We are a team of attorneys from the law firms Allen Stewart, P.C. and Williams Kherkher, and we have come together to help victims of PCBs discover the truth.

If you or someone you love is living with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, call us at 888-990-6376 for more information on getting tested at no cost to you.

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