Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) are, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a man-made synthetic compound used in electrical equipment, mostly, due to its insulating properties. The Monsanto Company was responsible for the manufacturing of the substance as 99% of all PCB presence can be attributed to their company and they had been in operation of the pollutant since 1930 until the United States Congress issued a ban on their production in 1979 due to hazardous effects to the environment and the people who live in it.
An internal memo discovered from within Monsanto claims that the company had been aware of the potential toxicity of the substance as early as the 1960s.
EPA conducted a study, then, in order to observe the health effects that exposure to PCBs has had on people over the years. Due to its synthetic nature, PCBs do not naturally decay with the environment and cause harm just by existing. Improper disposal of the chemical also led to the poisoning of the bodies of water that it touched, unsettling marine life as well as contaminating fish for consumption.
Toxic Monsanto PCBs were then used to test the direct effect of exposure on humans. One such study involved exposure to the compound with a Rhesus monkey – a species that is 93% compatible with the human genome – and found that exposure caused significant change in the creatures’ thymus glands. The thymus gland in people is at its most active before puberty and is responsible for the development of necessary hormones that fight infection, as it is directly linked with the body’s immune system.
There have been claims of people who have filed for legal action against Monsanto, claiming that it was exposure to PCBs that have caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma in their system – a cancer that starts from the lymphocytes, a part of the body’s immune system. The link cannot, therefore, be ignored as after blood tests – the victims were found to have had high levels of PCBs in their blood.