Tens of Thousands of Latin American Banana Plantation Workers Claim They Were Sterilized by Pesticide Use

Tens of thousands of former banana workers from plantations in Latin America claimed that the use of a pesticide in the 1970s sterilized them.

More than 1,100 former banana workers across Panama said that a pesticide called Di-bromochloropropane (DBCP) and used by United States fruit giant United Fruit Company — which has changed its name to Chiquita Brands International — made them sterile, according to a BBC report.

More workers in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua made similar claims and have sued companies that manufactured DBCP and the fruit companies that used it.

The manufacturers were Shell, Dow Chemical, Occidental Chemical, and AMVAC and the fruit companies in question were Dole Fruit, Del Monte, and Chiquita.

DBCP is used against microscopic worms, but it can also affect men’s fertility.

Rafael Martínez González, who worked in United Fruit plantations in Panama, told BBC that he thinks not enough precautions were taken when DBCP — one of its brand names being Fumazone — was sprayed.

“I sprayed lots of chemicals. Normally when I sprayed Fumazone, they’d give me a mask, but they didn’t give me gloves, boots, or any other protective clothing,” Martinez said.

U.S. lawyers helped hundreds of Panamanian workers, including Martínez, launch lawsuits against the fruit companies and manufacturers. 

However, the lawsuits were dismissed without the evidence ever being heard.

BBC investigations revealed that a California judge dismissed lawsuits of over 1,160 Panamanians in 2010 on the grounds of forum non conveniens, which meant that the particular court was not the best place to file the case.

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