All children have the right to reasonably safe school buildings. In 2016, our firm began investigating reports of toxic contamination and poisoning at the Sky Valley Education Center. Children, teachers, and parents are coping with adverse medical effects after spending time in the school buildings. Our firm acquired and reviewed tens of thousands of pages of evidence. The evidence includes environmental test results, internal memos, scientific studies, and medical records. After reviewing this evidence, we filed the lawsuit against the chemical manufacturer and the governmental agencies who put the Sky Valley community in harm’s way and poisoned them with extremely toxic chemicals.
First, the lawsuit is against Monsanto, the chemical manufacturer. The chemicals are Polychlorinated Biphenyls, or PCBs. Monsanto was the sole U.S. manufacturer of PCBs. They are synthetic chemicals. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, PCBs are “extremely toxic” chemicals. Monsanto produced and promoted its PCBs for decades without adequate warnings of their toxicity. Monsanto knew that its PCBs would be used in buildings, would be released into the surrounding environment, and would expose and harm living beings. Despite this knowledge, Monsanto chose PCB profits over PCB recalls or warnings. To this day, Monsanto fails to adequately warn the public about the extreme toxicity of Monsanto’s PCBs.
According to a recent report by U.S. Senator Edward Markey, up to 14 million children are at risk for PCB exposure in their schools:
Up to 14 million students nationwide, representing nearly 30% of the school-aged population, may be exposed to PCBs in their schools, based on the estimated number of schools built during that time and how much PCB-containing material was used in these schools. A 2016 Harvard School of Public Health study estimates that between 12,960 and 25,920 schools have PCB-containing caulk.
The Senator’s report may be downloaded here.
The Sky Valley lawsuit is also against the State of Washington and local governmental agencies that allowed the extremely toxic chemicals to exist in the school buildings—putting children, teachers, and parents in harm’s way.
According to a 2006 study by the State, the State knew that hazardous materials in school buildings can adversely affect the health of children and adults:
A child typically spends about 1300 hours in a school building each year, and teachers and other staff are there even longer…. Many school buildings are in poor condition and present environmental conditions that inhibit learning and pose unnecessary, increased health risks to students and staff…. Poor indoor air quality (IAQ), diesel exhaust emitted from school buses, hazardous materials, pesticides, contaminated drinking water, and lead are environmental hazards that sometimes are found in schools and can adversely affect the health, attendance, and academic success of students, as well as the health of teachers and other staff.
These are serious health risks.
State law requires that school buildings be properly lighted, ventilated, and maintained in a clean and sanitary condition. Despite the State’s knowledge of the dangers of hazardous materials in schools—and State law requirements for school safety—the State and local governmental agencies allowed these buildings to remain open.
According to a 2007 State study and Survey, the old Monroe Middle School was “deteriorating” and “the level of deterioration at this facility is the most severe of any school within the District.” The school was known to be contaminated by PCBs. Despite this knowledge, the Monroe School District chose to place the Sky Valley Education program into the buildings in 2011. The school district did this to save money on building costs at the program’s previous location. This exposed children, teachers, parents—including pregnant mothers, nursing mothers, and their infants—to toxic contamination. Sky Valley is a K-12 education program that includes volunteer parents. Many people became seriously ill, developing rare diseases and disorders. Over 100 people reported medical issues related to the school buildings. But the School District waited until 2016 to remediate the school buildings.
The State and local governmental agencies are obligated to provide safe school buildings to prevent toxic exposure and to protect children, teachers, and parents from injury, disease, and death. The Sky Valley parents trusted state and local government agencies to provide and maintain safe school buildings.
PCB exposure can cause serious adverse health effects. The Centers for Disease Control, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), has a FAQ sheet available here. The Agency also published a case study in environmental medicine for PCBs, available here.
The Environmental Protection Agency also published information on how children, teachers, and parents are exposed to toxic PCBs in school buildings. That publication can be downloaded here.
Many people who spent time in the Sky Valley school buildings have been coping with disorders:
Many people also suffered fatigue, breathing issues, concentration difficulties, memory problems, nausea, headaches, burning eyes, sore throats, bloody noses, peeling skin, and rashes, hives, or unusual acne. The scientific research links these symptoms and diseases listed above with PCB exposure.
View the Complaint and the evidence (exhibits).
This lawsuit is about corporate responsibility and governmental accountability. Those in power made these decisions. We must stand up to the establishment and demand safety for our school children, our teachers, and our families.
If you have information regarding the building conditions at the old Monroe Middle School / Sky Valley Education Center, please call us at 206-501-4446 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you or your family members have been affected by the toxic contamination, you can contact us at 206-501-4446.
If you have information about the State Department of Health or Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) policies regarding PCBs in schools, please contact us at 206-501-4446 or email at email@example.com.
“We were treated as though we were their top priority and the results were more than we had anticipated. The politeness and respect with which we were treated was far above the norm.” – Cheryl