Third world countries tend to be the most susceptible to the witches brew of chemicals. Twenty-five percent of the world's pesticides are used in third world countries and it this is where over 99% of pesticide related deaths occur.
Workers have discovered the hard way that almost every chemical they work with is a danger to their well-being and that of their families. Even when not in use, old containers of pesticides are often improperly stored underground. This slowly contaminates the local eco-system and the bodies of the workers whose labor allows the chemical and food industries to reap in billions in profits. (http://www.panna.org/issues/frontline-commun...)
It is estimated that over 50,000 tons of these stockpiles are all over the African continent and a variety of Asian and Latin American countries as well. In fact, there are certain areas in the South Pacific and Costa Rica that can never be farmed again due to the level of soil contamination. On a daily basis these workers are exposed to some of the most dangerous toxins in the world.
Chemicals Commonly Used and Their Effects
Fruit companies use chemicals at almost every stage of growing. Fertilizers are used to keep the soil fertile, herbicides to keep the growing area vegetation free, nematicides to protect roots from damage, fungicides to prevent damaging fungi. Chemicals are even used during the packing process. (http://members.tripod.com/foro_emaus/BanPlan...)
In most plantations, workers are not provided with or cautioned to wear protective safety gear. Workers are potentially exposed to a virtual Molotov cocktail of chemicals on a daily basis. This exposure without protection is a large contributor to the high rates of negative health effects.
One of the most infamous, Dibromo-chloro-propane (DBCP) is also known as Nemagon. In the 1950's companies that manufactured the chemical and the federal government were aware of this nematicides chromosome disrupting properties but still approved it for use. In 1977, after a group of factory workers in California were discovered to be sterile after working with DBCP, it was outlawed in the U.S. Dole, however, continued to use the chemical until December of 1978.
The United Nations Environmental Programme presented a case study on Nemagon lawsuits. "I was 21 years old, what did I know? Nobody told us anything. For two years, I applied Nemagon without mask, gloves, or protecting clothing. You pump it directly into the ground. Sometimes, the pressure made the liquid splash right in your face. You could feel the hideous smell across 100 meters" stated a banana plantation worker interviewed for the study. Nemagon has been connected to headaches, male sterility, nausea, cancer, and damage to the stomach, lungs, kidneys, brain, spleen, eyes, blood, and liver.
Other toxins often used in fruit plantations are Timex, Paraquat, and Parathion. One of the primary ingredients in Timex, is Aldicarb. The EPA classifies Aldicarb as one of the most acutely toxic pesticides registered. (http://www.pesticide.org/get-the-facts/pesti...) it has been tied to immune system abnormality, stillbirths and tumors.
Paraquat, a herbicide, can cause death with one teaspoonful if ingested. It can also cause permanent lung damage, skin blistering and ulcers, necrosis, temporary loss of nails, dermal burns, nose bleeds, loss of eyesight, liver/kidney/heart failure, and lung scarring.
From Costa Rica to Nicaragua, to Guatemala, the Honduras, Africa and beyond farm workers have been suffering from the effects of exposure to these chemicals. Employees and their families are effected either by direct contact or a result of environmental contamination of the soil and groundwater. The men and women on these plantations suffer from sterility, miscarriages, depression, cancer, skin infections- basically the host of symptoms associated with the chemicals they work with and are sprayed with every day. (http://www.bananalink.org.uk/content/view/25...)
In 2005 Nicaraguan workers had enough. Over 25,000 of them marched on their capital in protest of the abuses. Soon thereafter the law was changed allowed workers to sue the corporations responsible (Dow, Dole, and Shell) for compensation for their injuries.
Workers filed and won a class action suit and were awarded $490 million dollars in damages. Over 16,000 banana plantation workers from Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Philippines in Texas filed a similar class action. In that case Amvac, Dow, Occidental, and Shell settled for $41.5 million. (http://www.opticalrealities.org/Central-Amer...)
These multi-national companies go from country to country leaving heartache, pain, and death behind. They target countries with large numbers of poor, no labor organization, and unstable governments easily controlled and corrupted by money. When that doesn't work they exercise their political muscle on this side of the world to get cases thrown out and awards overturned.
It seems as if for now the bad guys are winning, over 40 lawsuits have been filed and if a settlement is not reached they have all been dismissed. The only way to stop these travesties is to wholly support the organic movement- no chemicals, no death, no problems. A simple solution, but for the greed that runs rampant it would be the only solution.