Now Playing on PWFM :: What I Learned in 30 Years of Covering Monsanto (and what it means today)

My Best Covid Writing – Special Archive

Hazmat workers outside Bliss Residence Hall at SUNY New Paltz in January 1992. This dorm was home to 190 young women who were thankfully all away for winter break at the time of the explosion. Two of the workers are in Level B protection (with air tanks), the second highest level available — rarely used outside. The supervisor, to the right, is in Level C. This was to protect them from Mosanto’s Aroclor 1260, used in the transformer that exploded. The dioxin levels created by the explosion were so high, the person who took down the pine tree died of leukemia. I was recently called as an expert witness at his wrongful death NY State disability trial, and this photo was entered as evidence. Photo by Eric F. Coppolino / Student Leader News Service.

DOWNLOAD ZIP FILE | Related: Interview with Peter von Stackelberg on how he broke open the IBT Labs story as a small-town reporter covering grain farming in the late 1970s

Dear Friend and Reader:

Tonight’s program is a special edition, where I mark thirty years to the week that I’ve been covering Monsanto. On this week’s program, I’m planning to tell you what I learned. There is so much that I will choose about four or five highlights: major issues where key elements are revealed. Much more is available at Dioxin Dorms website — there is no malware in case you get a warning. We have secured the website and await the content block to come off.

Before I go on: if you are a contributor to the program, thank you. Not all of my readers are thrilled that I honor my professional duty and cover scientific fraud. If you are one of the many people who takes refuge in my program and my writing, please make a contribution to the program. Lots of small donations go a long way. Several large donations in December have helped us make ends meet.

My Monsanto Coverage Started on a College Campus in 1992

I discovered Monsanto one day when its electrical insulation fluid failed in six campus buildings, resulting in a toxic catastrophe that took nine years to clean up. Miraculously, this occurred during winter break, with nearly all of the 990 residents of the dorms away.

Me working on the PCB story from a motel room in New Paltz, NY, while I was living in Paris. Photo by Danielle Voirin.

The failed dielectric and heat insulator was made of PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, a substance like very heavy liquid vinyl that was (among other things) used as insulation in electrical equipment.

One day, a driver lost control of her car and ran into a utility pole two miles from campus, damaging electrical wires. Within hours, the campus was covered with members of the renowned IBM hazmat team, dispatched from the neighboring county.

This incident occurred at a state college campus few blocks from my home and office. At the time I was editor of Student Leader News Service, a statewide press service. While the rest of the local newspapers and TV stations were running “back to normal” stories a month later, I dug into the details of the cleanup and the claims of state and county officials. And I learned the history of the issues as told in court documents from the records of many lawsuits involving the chemicals.

From a Local Story to a Global Story

Investigating for the next three years, I discovered that the PCB manufacturers — Monsanto, General Electric and Westinghouse — knew all along that these problems could, and would, happen. They knew how toxic PCBs were, how they affected both workers and wildlife, and that PCBs had contaminated “some of the very remote part of the world.”

Aftermath of the Bliss Hall explosion, which bent the ventilation louvers and blew the door off of the building. The explosion was so powerful it shook an ambulance 100 feet away. On investigation, I learned that the manufacturers knew years earlier that this would happen. Soon after taking this photo, I vomited for an hour. Photo by Eric F.  Coppolino / SLNS

My investigation included the relationship between PCBs (a manufactured product) and dioxin (a chemical manufacturing byproduct). Along the way,

I encountered fraudulent “safety testing” labs that provided phony studies for the FDA and the EPA. I read the memos of Jeff Baer and Wayne Bickerstaff, who proposed shredding “smoking gun documents” in the industrial hygiene files at Westinghouse.

By late 1994, I had reported all this in a front-page story for Sierra magazine. This was the first to document the whole history of PCBs, starting with their discovery in the environment. After doing this initial work, I developed the history of dioxin, and of the fraudulent operation to cover it up.

From the Las Vegas Sun to the Mountain Astrologer

My scientific fraud coverage has been published everywhere from The Las Vegas Sun to The Village Voice to The Ecologist and far beyond. I continued my work on Monsanto over the years, and have conducted many other investigations into their crimes against humanity, and those of many other companies and agencies. I even researched Monsanto’s chart, and did a major cover article for The Mountain Astrologer.

Twice, The New York Times profiled me for my original journalism.

Covid Investigation and Discovery Operation

When covid began in early 2020, I was well-equipped to initiate an investigation and discovery operation. The patterns discovered in this investigation follow those in every other one I’ve done: the use of “science” as a political and corporate weapon, rather than a method that is used to get to the truth.

My journey covering toxins began at the Love Canal neighborhood in Niagara Falls, NY, in 1983. Much that I learned on that story, written when I was 19, I still use today. It’s all still valid; we are living through the same thing over and over.

I’ll be offering tales from the trail on Friday’s program.

With love,

 

 

 

Conspiracy of Silence

Related — exposes Westinghouse document destruction

 

Part of my document collection, in cold storage. Other parts are in climate-controlled storage and a small number of documents are kept in file cabinets in my office. Much of the collection of 240,000 pages is preserved in digital format online, in multiple locations.

One comment

  1. Eric,

    I tried to contact the New York Times on several occasions regarding the Pat Hall death benefit case, but they never got a call back to me.

    I believe the story writes itself. But, you are the writer, I am just country lawyer trying to help the widows and orphans in Ulster County. LOL

    In all seriousness, the thirty year perspective is the story of the chicken that came home to roost. It is easy to overlook the causal link between the seed planted that many years ago with coronary artery disease and leukemia that resulted. The length of latency period favors the real culprits.

    Your contribution to the Pat Hall death benefit case was substantial. Your work and the material you kept provided a foundation for Dr. Basri to support his expert opinion of causal relationship. He came to the party with 33 years of experience as a volunteer fireman and researcher involving the impact of dioxin on the human body. He studied the ConEd transformer explosions and fires in NYC. He spoke with authority of the biochemical connection between PCBs and Dioxin in a way that was less than a clear in the scientific studies that I reviewed.

    With the Times having covered the original story, I thought there is a real opportunity for follow up and for you and Dr. Basri to get credit for the contribution you provided.

    Thank you again for your assistance,

    Happy Holidays.

    Ralph
    Ralph M. Kirk, Esq.
    Kirk & Teff, LLP
    10 Westbrook Lane
    P.O. Box 4466
    Kingston, New York 12402
    Phone:(845)338-4477
    Fax:(845)338-2892
    Main Email: rmk@kirkandteff.com

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