More than 200 farm workers from Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica have reportedly filed seven lawsuits against commercial banana growers and pesticide manufacturers, seeking to recover damages and medical monitoring costs for health conditions allegedly related to dibromochloropropane (DBCP) exposure. Aguilar v. Dole Food Co., Inc., No. _____ (U.S. Dist. Ct., E.D. La., filed June 1, 2011). The complaints argue that defendants used DBCP from approximately 1960 to 1985—“and possibly into the 1990s”—in banana growing regions outside the United States, which banned the nematocide in 1979 after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) listed it as a suspected carcinogen.
Plaintiffs claim that because they were not informed of the danger or provided with protective clothing, they injected DBCP into soil without the use of gloves, protective covering or respiratory equipment to prevent skin absorption or inhalation. “Many workers absorbed so much DBCP each day that their urine would give off the smell of the chemical at night,” state the complaints, which link DBCP to “serious and permanent injuries,” including but not limited to sterility, eye and skin conditions, and increased cancer risk. In addition to compensatory and punitive damages, the suits seek to hold defendants accountable for negligence and/or gross negligence, conspiracy to cause plaintiffs’ injuries, strict liability, and breach of implied warranty.