Author Interview: Ellen Griffith Spears on Anniston PCB Fight

May 1, 2014

Ellen Griffith Spears
Credit Andrea Mabry Photography

A new book from an assistant professor at the University of Alabama focuses on pollution problems in Anniston in the mid 1990's. The book titled “Baptized in PCBs: Race, Pollution, and Justice in an All-American Town” tells the story of the town’s struggle with PCB contamination. Monsanto had been accused of dumping PCBs in the predominantly black community and people were getting sick.  A lawsuit was eventually settled in 2003 with seven hundred million dollars for the plaintiffs and the clean-up.  Author Ellen Griffith Spears began interviews over ten years ago.

Ellen Griffith Spears: “I anticipated reticence, but people were very interested in talking about what was going on locally.  Uniformly, people said I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to another community.” 

Spears says the lessons of Anniston still aren’t being fully realized.

Spears: “We need better means of regulating toxic chemicals.  The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, which is the law that governs chemical policy in the US, was weak to begin with and it’s badly out of date.”

“Baptized in PCBs” was released last month by the University of North Carolina Press.  Here’s a link to the book on Amazon.


Click the audio above to hear the full interview with Spears.  Click the audio below to hear Spears read an excerpt from the book.