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L'État de Washington porte plainte contre Monsanto


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SEATTLE—Washington on Thursday became the first U.S. state to sue agrochemical giant Monsanto over pervasive pollution from PCBs, the toxic industrial chemicals that have accumulated in plants, fish and people around the globe for decades.

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced the lawsuit at a news conference in downtown Seattle, saying they expect to win hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars from the company.


“It is time to hold the sole U.S. manufacturer of PCBs accountable for the significant harm they have caused to our state,” Mr. Ferguson said, noting that the chemicals continue to imperil the health of protected salmon and orcas despite the tens of millions of dollars Washington has spent to clean up the pollution. “Monsanto produced PCBs for decades while hiding what they knew about the toxic chemicals’ harm to human health and the environment.”

Monsanto didn’t immediately respond to an email and a phone message seeking comment Thursday. In response to a similar lawsuit filed last year by the city of Spokane, Wash., Monsanto said a previous incarnation of the company produced the PCBs, which it said “served an important fire protection and safety purpose.”

“PCBs sold at the time were a lawful and useful product that was then incorporated by third parties into other useful products,” Charla Lord, a company spokeswoman, wrote. “If improper disposal or other improper uses created the necessity for clean-up costs, then these other third parties would bear responsibility for these costs.”

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, were used in many industrial and commercial applications, including in paint, coolants, sealants and hydraulic fluids. Monsanto, based in St. Louis, produced them from 1935 until Congress banned them in 1979.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, PCBs have been shown to cause a variety of health problems, including cancer in animals as well as effects on the immune, nervous and reproductive systems.

Other cities—including Portland, Ore., and Oakland, Berkeley, San Jose, Long Beach and San Diego, Calif.—also have sued Monsanto over PCB pollution, the Attorney General’s Office said. Those cases are ongoing.

Mr. Ferguson said his office had been in touch with counterparts in other states, but it remained unclear if they would follow Washington’s lead in suing the company.

Washington’s lawsuit seeks damages on several grounds, including product liability for what it described as Monsanto’s failure to warn about the danger of PCBs; negligence; and even trespass, for injuring the state’s natural resources.


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