NICARAGUA: Banana workers plan to sue companies over effects of DBCP
Nearly 100 banana workers are camping out in front of the Nicaraguan parliament building in Managua this month, demanding legislative help that will enable them to bring a class-action lawsuit against several large corporations which they believe are to blame for the deaths and diseases of close relatives and co-workers.The banana industry is arguably the developing nation's most important; last year exports grossed US$13.6m and over 5000 people are currently employed in the sector. It grew to prominence during the 1960s and 70s, when land owned by local producers was leased to Standard Fruit Company, a company whose main strategy was to focus on export potential. In a bid to increase yields, growers used the pesticide DBCP, or dibromochloropropane, which was later condemned by the International Action Network Against the Use of Pesticides, and it is this which is now causing the problems. The utilisation of DBCP is now understood to cause illnesses that have long-term effects across generations. It interferes with the central nervous system and the transmission of nerve impulses, causing hypersensitivity of the skin, headaches, weakness and nausea. DBCP can also have the long-term effects of sterility, eye damage, anaemia, thyroid damage and increased mortality in the young.Francisca Picado, 45, worked at the banana plantations for 12 years. She said that her husband died over twenty years ago from DBCP poisoning, which was known at the time as "nemagoon," and she explained how the pesticide has affected her son Juan Carlos: "The doctors said he was damaged. They said that I had passed on the disease that his father had caught (from the pesticide)."
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