Burlington educators sue, claim PCB contamination at high school made them sick

Published: Oct. 10, 2022 at 5:54 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 10, 2022 at 7:55 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Has the chemical contamination that forced the closure of Burlington High School actually made people sick? That’s the claim in a new federal lawsuit that goes after the manufacturer of the chemicals. It was first reported by our media partners at Seven Days.

At issue here are the polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs that were found in high concentrations at BHS two years ago.

Two former educators and one of their spouses believe exposure to those PCBs have made them sick. They are suing Monsanto, its owner and its subsidiaries for financial damages.

Burlington High School was closed one day into the 2020 school year after air testing for a planned renovation uncovered levels of PCBs that exceeded state health department standards.

Given the high cost of cleaning up the contamination, Burlington school officials ultimately decided to abandon the school and build a new one. Voters will decide on that issue next month.

The PCBs in question were commonly used in building materials through the 1970s. The plaintiffs say Monsanto and its subsidiaries are responsible for making the PCBs.

The two plaintiffs worked in the BHS building with the highest concentration of PCB contamination.

One former employee, Tracy Rubman, says she’s suffered reproductive health problems, including premature births and miscarriages. The other former employee, Kathy Lothian, says she suffers from cognitive issues.

We reached out for a response to Bayer which owns Monsanto, which says the case lacks merit. In a statement, the company notes that Monsanto stopped producing PCBs 45 years ago and that up to that point, PCBs were lawfully used in products manufactured by other companies.

There is no dollar figure in the suit, but the plaintiffs are seeking payment of damages and medical costs.

Related Stories:

As bond vote approaches, Burlington officials seek supplemental funds for high school

How much will taxpayers be asked to pay for new Burlington school?

New Burlington High School cost exceeds bonding capacity

School board discusses $200M plan for new Burlington High School

Vt. health officials present school PCB testing protocols to lawmakers

Vermont rolls out PCB school mitigation program

Burlington school officials to consider recommendations on reoccupying high school

Burlington School Board takes up new PCB guidance