Daily News Archive
From September 28, 2006                                                                                                        

West African Plantation Workers Sue Chemical Companies for Genocide
(Beyond Pesticides, September 28, 2006)
The Metzger Law Group is suing Shell Chemical Company, Dow Chemical Company, Amvac Corporation, and Dole Food Company on behalf of 668 West African plantation workers, claiming that the pesticide dibromochloropropane (DBCP) caused them to become sterile. DBCP, a soil fumigant sold under the brand names Nemagon and Fumazone, was banned by EPA 27 years ago because it causes physical deformities, sterility, cancer, and birth defects.

The plaintiffs claim that the chemical companies and plantation owners broke international law and committed crimes against humanity by using a banned pesticide on a plantation in the Ivory Coast. Many of the workers were exposed when they were children. The workers were never told about the hazards of DBCP, nor given protective equipment. Half of the workers tested are sterile and many suffer from other physical injuries, as well.

According to a press release by the Metzger Law Group, regarding the sterility of plantation workers, one of Shell’s employees has been quoted as saying: “From what I hear, they could use a little birth control down there.”

The suit is brought under the Alien Tort Claims Act, a federal statute that allows foreigners to seek redress for wrongs committed abroad in US federal courts. The violations of international law are based on the Convention against Genocide and Crimes against Humanity. The complaint was expected to be filed on September 27, 2006, at the Los Angeles Federal District Courthouse.

Dole and the chemical companies have faced similar charges in the past regarding their sale of DBCP to plantations in developing countries. In November 2004, thousands of banana workers in Costa Rica filed a lawsuit against Shell Chemical Co., Dow Chemical Co., and the banana giants Dole Food Co., Chiquita Brands International Inc. and Fresh Del Monte Produce Co. Similar lawsuits by Nicaraguan workers were also filed in January 2003 and December 2002, in addition to a series of DBCP-related lawsuits banana workers filed against these companies during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Despite overwhelming evidence, no US court has ever ordered one of these companies to pay compensation to the workers. In 2001, Nicaraguan courts ordered Shell Chemical Co., Dole Food Co., and Dow Chemical Co. to pay 489 million dollars to 500 male banana workers made sterile by DBCP. But the companies refused to pay and, led by Dole, they counter-sued the claimants for fraud and asked for 17 billion dollars in damages. For the most part, US judges have argued that their courts are not the appropriate arenas for trying these cases, and only a very small percent of the rejected cases are re-filed in other countries, where plaintiffs' rights are often much weaker than the US.

A copy of the complaint, as well as additional information and photographs, can be viewed online at www.toxictorts.com/news.shtml

TAKE ACTION: Boycott Dole Food Company, Shell Oil Company, Dow Chemical Company and Amvac Chemical Company until these corporations discontinue the use of DBCP and compensate those workers who were poisoned. Now is the time to get involved in the campaign to take action against Dow Chemical Company - this lawsuit is only one of many examples in which Dow repeatedly abuses its corporate power at the expense of workers' health. See Beyond Pesticides’ Dow Chemical Campaign to learn about ways to take action against Dow.