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Monsanto settles dioxin suits in West Virginia

Monsanto settles dioxin suits in West Virginia

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Creve Coeur-based biotechnology and agricultural giant Monsanto Co. announced Friday that the company has settled lawsuits related to the production of Agent Orange at a plant in West Virginia decades ago.

A class-action lawsuit, filed in 2004, alleged the company is responsible for contaminated homes and schools near a chemical plant in Nitro, near Charleston. The lawsuit sought medical testing and monitoring for as many as 80,000 residents.

The company's old chemical business manufactured an Agent Orange ingredient at its facilities in Nitro until the late 1960s. The process of manufacturing Agent Orange, a chemical defoliant used during the Vietnam War, produces dioxins, a class of chemicals linked to cancer and other diseases.

The settlements announced Friday mean the company will provide $9 million to have 4,500 homes professionally cleaned, as well as medical benefits for residents, including a thirty-year monitoring program at a local hospital.

The plan will be paid for with a $21 million fund, as well as additional $63 million available over the next three decades, the company said in a statement.

“The settlements provide needed medical benefits and remediation services to the people of Nitro and broader community,” said Stuart Calwell, who represented the class, in a statement. “The principal goal of the litigation was to provide long-term medical monitoring and to provide professional cleaning of individual homes.”

Calwell also represented 200 or so residents of Nitro in personal injury suits, which alleged that the dioxins from the Nitro plant led to disease. These suits were also settled as part of this deal, according to Monsanto.

At least seven lawsuits alleging similar links between Monsanto's plant in Sauget and area residents are pending in St. Clair County Court.

In 2000, Monsanto merged with the pharmaceutical company Pharmacia, and a new, agriculture-focused company called Monsanto was spun off in 2002.

The company's chemical business was spun off as Solutia in 1997, at which point Solutia agreed to absorb the liabilities associated with old Monsanto's chemical business. Solutia filed for bankruptcy in 2008. In 2008, the new Monsanto assumed financial responsibility for litigation related to the chemical business.

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