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Last Updated: Monday, 5 November 2007, 22:42 GMT
US payout awarded over pesticide
Former banana workers stand in line to sign a document in Managua, Nicaragua, July 2007
The case is the first of five lawsuits involving at least 5,000 workers
A US jury has awarded a total of $3.3m (1.58m) to six workers who claim they were left sterile by a pesticide used at a banana plantation in Nicaragua.

The workers accused Dole and Standard Fruit Co and Dow Chemical Co of concealing the dangers posed by the pesticide, used in the 1970s.

It contained the chemical Nemagon (DBCP), used to kill tiny worms on the roots of banana plants.

The plaintiffs were among 12 workers suing Dole and Dow Chemical Co.

Jurors in the Los Angeles County Superior Court found that the two companies were a substantial factor in causing harm to the six.

The other plaintiffs were awarded nothing after the jury ruled that the companies had not substantially harmed them.

'Suppressed information'

The individual awards ranged from $311,200 to $834,000.

The jury decided that Dole - a California-based company - would be responsible for the bulk of the payments.

The suit also alleged that the manufacturers of the pesticide, Dow Chemical Co and Amvac Chemical Corp, "actively suppressed information about DBCP's reproductive toxicity".

Amvac reached a $300,000 settlement in the case before the trial.

Duane Miller, the workers' lawyer, accused Dole of applying the pesticide in amounts which far exceeded guidelines.

In its defence Dole said the pesticide had been only applied once or twice a year and that it was diluted with water, sprayed at night and that the plants were afterwards washed with water.

The harmful effects of Nemagon, banned in the US in 1977, include birth defects, damage to the liver and kidneys, and sterility in male workers.

The case is the first of five lawsuits involving at least 5,000 agricultural workers from Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama, who claim they were left sterile after being exposed to the pesticide.

Other growers and manufacturers are named as defendants.

Legal experts say the case is significant as it raises the issue of whether multinational companies should be held accountable in their home countries or in the countries where they employ workers.

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