Quotes on Suffering from PBB: An American Tragedy, by Edwin Chen, circa 1979

The complaints of the known-PBB-poisoned crops, farm animals, humans, and lab animals. I share this because I think learning through human experience is the fastest way to absorb infromation.

All quotes pulled drectly from the book;

Chen, Edwin. (1979). PBB: An American Tragedy. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Prentice-Hall.

  • “A cow in front of him looked as if she had been crying. Tears were streaking down her cheeks. He checked her for other infections, especially pinkeye. He resumed down the barn alley. He encountered another tear-streaked face. And then another. And another.” (p.6)
  • “There’s no reason for these cattle to have IBR (a flulike disease which can cause abortions in cattle),” said the stoop shouldered animal doctor. “I vaccinated them all myself and the vaccines came from several suppliers so we can’t blame it on a bad batch of vaccine. But I’ll be hanged if I know what it is. These cattle don’t act like any I’ve ever seen before. No cuds, no appetites, no fever. I don’t know what they’ve got.” (p.11)
  • “But soon other symptoms appeared among the cows, such as abnormally rapid hoof growth and lameness.” (p.12)
  • “One night, Sandy woke up with a stab of pain, marking, she later recalled, ‘The beginning of a spreading kidney infection. Before that was taken care of, Lisa’s (daughter of Sandy) cough had gotten worse instead of better.’” … “… turned out to be pneumonia and required ten days in the hospital.” (p.12)
  • “The poor calf wouldn’t eat for two weeks before it died.” (p.14)
  • “Soon similar reports (autopsies) arrived on the other calves. Several had ulcers, others inflamed kidneys.” (p.14)
  • “In many cases, the mice would rather starve than eat the (PBB laced) feed during experiment). (p.17)
  • (The calves from the initial PBB exposure) “…had begun to have their calves.” … “The poor animals would have over term calves, and they would develop no mammary tissue, and their pelvic ligaments would not adjust to allow for normal calf presentation.” (p.17)
  • “Yet the cows continued developing illnesses. Many had hooves that curled upward and inward uncontrollably; some began losing hair, then their skin thickened and wrinkled. With each death Dr. Jackson would do a postmortem. The signs always seemed the same, enlarged livers, inflamed kidneys, nearly a total absence of fat.” (p.19)
  • “At the National Animal Disease Laboratory, where Dr. Furr was giving the feed to steers and pigs, two of the pigs died, one bleeding from the ears and one from nearly every orifice in its body.” (p.19)
  • “’One of my rabbits died,’ he told Halbert. Dr. Jackson’s rabbit experiment was his own idea.” (p.20)
  • By mid March Halbert’s own cows began dying before giving birth to calves. Losing both a cow and her calf became more frequent.” (p.23)
  • “…lose their hair in huge patches; soon there was no hair left on their faces and necks, and the hairless patches were spreading quickly. Before long both calves were totally hairless. Then their skin begin to develop a condition called hyperkaratosis, which makes it resemble elephant hide. The calves failed to respond to all treatment.” … “(Halbert’s) wife (same farm as these cattle), Sandy had developed a bleeding ulcer and inexplicable chest pains.” (p.25)
  • “The cows dropped right down in milk production; they weren’t doing well at all.” (p.27 Art Laupichler near Yale, Michigan CoOp)
  • “But death continued to plague the farm. One victim was Super cows, so named because she was the best animal the Halbert’s had ever bred.” … “But two days after Supercow died, her week-old calf also died.” (p.29)
  • “At the Halbert Farm, the disposal of 8000 quarts of milk every day soon became yet another problem to cope with” … ”So Rick decided to haul the waste and milk out, and spread it on the fallow fields. But once the load got bogged down in the field and had to be drained on the spot before it could be pulled loose from the mud.” The liquid wastes were allowed to run off, following the lines of the cornfields and disappearing finally into a stand of young corn. ‘Within a few days, we noticed the corn in the field had fallen flat, as though someone had driven a steamroller through that part of the field.’ she said.” (p.50)
  • “’Some of the cows were so weak when they were unloaded that they couldn’t stay on their feet. A number of the animals resembled the starving cattle from the drought-stricken Sahel, their hides looking as if they were thrown over their bones. Dozens of them had lost patches of hair on their necks and faces; and the exposed skin resembled elephant hide.’” (p.51)
  • “When one of the drivers saw the pathetically thin animals plodding slowly up the loading ramp, their ears drooping, their coats dull and coarse, their patches of hair missing to reveal elephant-like skin, he gasped, ‘My God! What happened to these animals? Is it contagious?’” (p.51-52)
  • “Ball wrenched his back in a minor mishap.” (p.57)
  • “They had rented a house on a farm and a friend of theirs had given them several chickens as a present. ‘They were very pleased,’ Dr. Corbett said, “to be supplied with all the fresh eggs they could eat and took it as a personal affront when I commented that they were the most miserable looking creatures I had ever seen. They were scrawny, and their feathers were falling out. They looked as if they had been half plucked.” (p.66-67)
  • “’We fed the experimental group from days seven through eighteen of the nineteen-day pregnancy period.” … “’Several of the experimental animals died before the end of the feeding period. We performed autopsies on the animals and found two surprising things – the animals had died from massive gastrointestinal hemorrhages, and they all had greatly enlarged livers.” …of the remainders, autopsies occurred at day 18… “‘Autopsies on the experimental animals revealed a continuing pattern of abnormal liver enlargements.’” (p.67-68)
  • “’It’s an exencephaly,” Dr. Corbett said as everyone gathered around the (mouse) fetus – it’s head severely deformed and it’s brain protruding from it’s skull.” … never seen by any of them in all of the lab workers’ unrelated studies… “If it was due to Firemaster, he thought, there ought to be more of them in the remaining fetuses. ‘Here’s another one.’” More were found in the next stage of further studies involving Firemaster and impregnated mice. (p.68)
  • “’For instance, Albert Vandewater, a 49 year old Fremont, Michigan, farmer, said he had been hospitalized for six days in December 1973. Then in March he was admitted to Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids with a suspected coronary problem. ‘He is able to get around, but not able to work,’ the FDA report said. Although heart problem was ruled out,’ the report added, ‘Mr. Vandewater now cannot see to read or drive. He has a loss of energy, has lost thirty pounds over the past nine months, is subject to blackout spells and has been since December 1973.’ Vanderwall’s farm was quarantined after a chicken was found to have been highly contaminated with PBB.” (p.85-86)
  • “’Also in Fremont, one of the hardest hit areas, dairywoman, Nancy Rottier told FDA inspectors she had begun suffering from migraine headaches, usually 3-4 times per week, for the last five months. Her farm was quaranined…” … “Then her headaches disappeared, since she stopped drinking her own cows’ milk. A subsequent physical examination by her own doctor found Mrs. Rottier ‘entirely normal.’” (p.86)
  • “In Newaygo, just a few miles southeast of Fremont, 50 year old Ethel Johnson told FDA officials she began experiencing unusual fatigue in the fall of 1973 and ‘just couldn’t seem to make a recovery.’ She became abnormally nervous and began losing weight. A thorough examination turned up nothing. Almost every night she had to get up 3 or 4 times to urinate. Her husband advised her to drink more milk. She did, but her problems worsened. Her ankle and feet then began swelling. After a week’s hospitalization in Fremont, doctors were unable to come up with an explanation for her ailments. They told her to go home and relax. But the swelling continued, and her hands and feet often throbbed at night. Another doctor told her the swelling probably was caused by her circulation, ‘which wasn’t the best.’ Before long, Mrs. Johnson was experiencing dizziness and lack of coordination, often staggering, as if intoxicated, when walking and missing her mouth while eating. Her problems began improving after April 1974 when she stopped drinking milk because of the publicity about sick dairy animals, she said.” (p.86)
  • “Her husband, Melvin, told the FDA inspectors he also had coordination problems that set in during the winter of 1973. He spilled coffee frequently, tripped and stumbled often and had fallen in the barn numerous times. Like his wife, Johnson also missed his mouth when eating. An ophthalmologic examination found nothing wrong with his sight. Occasionally, he also had sharp stomach pains that felt as if he were ‘stabbed with a knife,’ Johnson said. He said he thought his problems were due to his advancing age. Tests later revealed that the Johnson’s milk had contained 11.2 parts PBB per million, an extremely high dose.” (p.86-87)


Next quote to start at (p.90). Will continue through end of book.

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