WINFIELD, W.Va. — Putnam County jurors chosen to sit in the upcoming case against Monsanto, a former Nitro chemical plant, will have to decide whether thousands of current and former Nitro residents should be periodically tested for disease at the expense of the company.
Residents alleged in a class-action lawsuit filed in 2004 that Monsanto unsafely dispersed dioxin, exposing them to unsafe levels of the toxic chemical.
The lawsuit seeks medical monitoring for at least 5,000 — and perhaps as many as 80,000 — current and former Nitro residents.
They are asking that Monsanto bear the cost of periodic medical testing to determine whether their exposure to the harmful chemicals caused any one or more of 12 different diseases, which they say are caused by exposure to dioxin.
Dioxin has been linked to cancer, birth defects, learning disabilities, endometriosis, infertility and suppressed immune functions. The chemical builds up in tissue over time, meaning that even small exposures can accumulate to dangerous levels.
In pre-trial documents, Monsanto claims the residents cannot prove that dioxin causes any of the diseases identified as linked to dioxin exposure. The company also asserts that the Nitro residents cannot “prove that any class members have been significantly exposed to dioxin beyond what would normally be encountered by a person in everyday life and at a level sufficient to cause disease.”