Friday, February 24, 2012

Monsanto close to 'Agent Orange' settlement with US victims

Long-running suit claims residents of Nitro, West Virginia were exposed to the carcinogenic Vietnam-era chemical weapon
Chemicals giant Monsanto is believed to have reached a settlement with US residents who claim they were poisoned by chemicals used in the manufacturing of the Vietnam-era chemical weapon Agent Orange.

The long-running suit was brought by residents living near a now defunct Monsanto plant in Nitro, West Virginia that between 1949 and 1971 produced the agricultural herbicide 2,4,5 trichlorophenoxyacidic acid, a key ingredient in Agent Orange.

The weapon was used extensively during the Vietnam war, killing and maiming an estimated 400,000 people and leading to 500,000 birth defects. In 2005 a US court rejected a case brought by Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange.

The suit – filed on behalf of tens of thousands of people who lived, worked and went to school in Nitro after 1949 – claims that Monsanto spread toxic substances including dioxins, which have been linked to cancer, all over the town.

The plaintiffs say they were exposed to levels of dioxins 100,000 times higher than acceptable levels. "Dioxin is a known human carcinogen and is so hazardous to human health that no "safe" level of exposure has been established," the suit claims.

It demands ongoing testing for at least 5,000 people who may have been affected by exposure to hazardous chemicals.

The settlement is expected to be announced as early as Friday afternoon. All parties are now under a tight gag order that was imposed in 2008 in order not to sway a local jury.

"Unfortunately, we cannot discuss the West Virginia lawsuit. A court order has been in place for quite some time which prohibits communications by the parties without prior court approval, and that order remains in force," Monsanto said in an emailed statement.

Nitro has a long history with warfare manufacturing. The town was given its explosive name when it was created in 1917 to service one of the US's main ammunition plants.

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