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Dole settles farm workers’ pesticide lawsuits

Dole settles with plaintiffs after 30+ years of debate

On Monday, Dole Food Co Inc. ended years of litigation with U.S. and Nicaraguan farm workers who claimed that a pesticide the company used left the workers sterile. Plaintiffs claimed Dole used the chemical dibromochloropropane (DBCP) to attack crop-destroying roots on banana plantations.

Workers in in a DBCP manufacturing plant filed the first suit involving the chemical in 1977, when California health officials determined the pesticide could cause infertility.  At the same time, another of Dole’s supplier companies, Dow Chemical Co., stopped production at the DBCP manufacturing plant and instituted a recall. In 1979, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned almost all uses of DBCP in the U.S., listing related possible injuries as cancer, male infertility and chromosomal damage. Dole stopped using the pesticide in 1980, but a series of debates ensued between Dole attorneys, doctors and plaintiffs attorneys, both in the U.S. and Nicaragua, involving the validity of tests conducted in laboratories, the extent to which workers were exposed to the pesticide and what preventive action the workers used to safeguard themselves.

Danielle Feinstein

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