Investigative Journalist to Speak in Spokane on PCB Threat

Sep 24, 2018


An investigative journalist who has spent years probing the story behind toxic chemicals, some of which are in the Spokane River, will be speaking this week at Gonzaga University.

PCBs, a family of chemicals also called polychlorinated biphenyls, were banned from use by Congress decades ago, but they are still found in the Spokane River. The chemicals were used in various electrical components, like transformers, but have been traced to human health issues, like liver damage or cancer.

A researcher who has documented the story will make in appearance in Spokane late this week.

Investigative journalist Peter von Stackelberg has spent years looking through documents from the 1930’s through the 1970’s on PCBs and other dangerous chemicals. He says the documents make it clear that the chemical’s manufacturer, Monsanto, knew the danger but worried more about its bottom line than the public’s safety.

“We also have Monsanto quote literally discussing whether they should continue to sell the chemicals or not, based on their knowledge of the hazards, and ultimately their decision was based, in part at least, on the whole question of their profits,” says Stackelberg.

That exact charge fits in to accusations the city of Spokane has made against the chemical manufacturer.

Spokane has filed a suit against the Monsanto Corporation, alleging it knew about the dangers PCBs posed for several years before they were banned.

Von Stackelburg says his thousands of pages of documents, compiled from various Freedom of Information Act requests, show a pattern of this in relation to numerous hazardous chemicals.

“There’s a systematic pattern of behavior by both the chemical industry and the regulators that allows very dangerous chemicals to be used over a period of decades even after the chemical companies and the regulators know they are harmful to the environment and human beings,” he said.

Von Stackelberg says part of the problem is the revolving door of people moving from corporate lobbyist to government regulator jobs.

Peter Von Stackelberg will speak at a free event at Gonzaga Law School on Thursday, Sept. 27. It's hosted by the university's Environmental Law and Land Use Clinic. The event "Monsanto, PCBs, and the Spokane River," will start at 6 pm in the Barbieri Courtroom

Peter Von Stackelberg