The by-products of coal become medicines, sweeteners, and more

Over the next few blog posts, I will post a series of in-depth reviews of Ellen Griffith Spears’ excellent book Baptized in PCB’s: Race, Pollution, and Justice in an All-American Town. I’ll examine the origins of “Slow Violence” in the Northern Alabama town of Anniston, the intersection with the racial violence of the 1060’s, and the continuing impact of both. 

Northern Alabama’s abundance of coal made it a perfect location for Monsanto. 

“Coal Tar” Medicinals were (and still are) synthetic compounds created using the by-products of manufacturing coke from coal.  Coal Tar was initially used only as black roofing pitch, but Monsanto and other chemical companies across the globe discovered that coal-tar was “Nature’s Storehouse” that produced ingredients for medicines, saccharine, vanillin, and many others

“Using first coal-tar derivative and later petroleum, chemist not only replicate compounds scares in nature… but also invented new compounds not found in nature.  Synthetic organic chemical are, by definition, carbon-based human creations…  Chemists were cast at “Modern Magicians” possessors of “Knowledge largely unknowns and inaccessible to the layperson.”


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