Dole Food Co., Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. and Dow Chemical Co. were sued by more than 1,000 banana plantation workers from Costa Rica, Ecuador and Panama in a new round of cases claiming injury from a pesticide.
The chemical, dibromochloropropane, has been linked to sterility, miscarriages, birth defects, cancer, eye problems, skin disorders and kidney damage, according to eight separate complaints filed since May 31 in federal court in Delaware.
The pesticide, banned in the U.S. in 1979, was sprayed on fields to eliminate microscopic nematode worms, and workers “wore no gloves, protective covering or respiratory equipment” and none of the defendants “ever informed them that they were in danger,” the plaintiffs said in court papers.
At least 16,000 Latin American workers have sued in U.S. courts over the chemical in the past two decades. Most cases have been dismissed, with judges saying workers must use their home courts.
In 2010, a California appeals Judge threw out a $2.3 million 2007 verdict after Dole argued that the plaintiffs had lied about becoming sterile.
Christine Cannella, a spokeswoman for Coral Gables, Florida-based Del Monte; Midland, Michigan-based Dow Chemical spokeswoman Nancy Lamb; and Westlake Village, California-based Dole spokesman Marty Ordman didn’t immediately return phone messages seeking comment on the lawsuits.
The original Delaware case is Marquinez v. Dole, 12-cv-695, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).