Made sterile by insecticides

Tens of thousands of former banana workers came out a couple of weeks ago to say they were made sterile by a pesticide used by US companies on plantations in Latin America in the 1970s.

The United States restricted and then banned its use on the US mainland because of the health risks, but workers in Central America and South America continued to be exposed to it.

Grace Livingstone reports from Panama on the workers’ decades-long is still however battling for justice.

Isabel Coba Mojica was 16 years old when he got a job on a banana plantation in Panama’s Chiriquí province. When he started working at the plantation in 1967, it was run by a subsidiary of the US fruit giant United Fruit Company, which has since changed its name to Chiquita Brands International.

Across Panama, there are more than 1,100 former banana workers who say that a pesticide used by United Fruit on the plantations made them sterile.

The pesticide, called Di-bromochloropropane or DBCP, targets microscopic worms that damaged banana plants. But it can also affect men’s fertility.

Reports say its most likely that enough precautions were taken when the pesticide – which had several brand names including Fumazone – was sprayed.

The problem is not restricted to Panama either, but Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, as well as tens of thousands of former banana workers have sued the companies that manufactured DBCP and the fruit companies which used it.

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

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