By Cahal Milmo
Banana labourers in Latin America who claim they were left infertile and crippled by exposure to a dangerous pesticide have filed lawsuits against their former employers and chemical manufacturers, including the British-Dutch oil giant Shell.
In the latest step in their 25-year battle for compensation, 160 former plantation staff from Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica have lodged the claims in Louisiana in the United States against two of the world’s largest banana producers – Dole and Chiquita – and against Shell’s American subsidiary and the chemical company Dow.
The workers claim all four companies allowed the powerful fumigant known as DBCP to be used across plantations for more than two decades despite knowing it could cause devastating side-effects in humans. Lawyers representing the workers say their clients are entitled to individual awards worth millions of pounds following DBCP’s use from the 1960s until the late 1970s. The claim alleges that use of the fumigant may have continued into the 1990s.
Dole and Dow said they would be strongly contesting the lawsuits. Shell and Chiquita did not respond to requests for comment.
Scott Hendler, the lawyer bringing the cases, said: “It is my belief that… a jury will return verdicts for damages in the millions.”