Our Alarming Airborne PCBs

A house with PCB-contaminated fill in its front and back yards in the Lakewood neighborhood in Pittsfield. Still frame courtesy of Mickey Friedman.

I want to talk about the failures of government to properly regulate the egregious choices polluters like Monsanto and GE have made as they chose profit over public health and the environment.

When distinguished scientists tell the world that toxic chemicals pose a serious threat to public health and the environment, are they alarmists? When a distinguished scientist demonstrates that toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) vaporize, enter the airstream, and pose a threat to our health and the environment, is he an alarmist?

Unfortunately, these are not trick questions. Rather, they are questions that describe our reality: Monsanto made and General Electric (GE) used PCBs that injure, even kill. And they had to stop manufacturing and using those PCBs only because scientists and environmentalists learned the alarming truth and revealed it to the public. They only stopped when politicians had to take action.

Yes, there has always been conflict between those who maintain that their cars, planes, their chemicals are perfectly safe and those who eventually prove that that really isn’t true. Ford’s Pinto was safe until it was revealed that impact resulted in the explosion of their rear gas tank. Boeing’s 737 Max 9 was safe to fly until Alaska Airlines had a near catastrophic failure when a bolt failed on a door plug.

So, I want to tell you about a distinguished scientist who has often helped us to better understand the threat of PCBs. And it is yet another indication of how crazy our American reality has become that Dr. David Carpenter of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Albany’s School of Public Health has been attacked by both Monsanto and our local Region One of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—attacked by a company that has polluted much of our world and the agency we rely upon to protect ourselves from Monsanto’s toxic chemicals. And they both consider Dr. David Carpenter to be an alarmist. 02-18-24

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