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About sharing image captionAmbroise Bertin had an operation for prostate cancer but still suffers from thyroid disease "First we were enslaved.
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Then we were poisoned. Meaningfkl was abolished in But today the islanders are victims again - of a toxic pesticide called chlordecone that's poisoned the soil and water and been linked to unusually high rates of prostate cancer. We didn't have any instructions about what was, and wasn't, good. That's why a lot of people are poisoned.
annd Ambroise did that job for many years. Later, he got prostate cancer, a disease that is commoner on Martinique and its sister French island of Guadeloupe than anywhere else in the world. And scientists blame chlordecone, a persistent organic pollutant related to DDT. It was authorised for use in the French West Indies long after its harmful effects became widely known.
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But that's the only clue he and other workers in Martinique's banana plantations in the s, 80s and early 90s had about the possible danger. Few if any were told to wear gloves or masks. Now, many have suffered cancer and other illnesses. One of the world's leading experts on the chemical, Prof Luc Multigner, of Rennes University in France, says epidemiological studies have shown increased risk of premature births and increased risk of adverse brain development in children at the exposure levels people in Martinique and Guadeloupe face through contaminated food consumption.
He also says: "There is enough toxicological and experimental data to conclude that chlordecone is carcinogenic. So more than 20 years after the chemical ceased to be used, much of the land on Martinique cannot be used for growing vegetables, even though bananas and other fruit on trees are safe. Rivers and coastal waters are also contaminated, which means many fishermen cannot work.
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So maybe you will limit the effects of the poison. But you are not sure," says historian Valy Edmond-Mariette, aged Because if we give them breast milk, maybe they will have chlordecone smething their blood. And I think nobody should be asking themselves this kind of question, because it's awful. Inthe World Health Organization classed the pesticide as potentially carcinogenic.
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But in the French authorities amrtinique chlordecone for use in banana plantations in the French West Indies - and even though it was finally banned ingrowers lobbied for - and got - permission to carry on using stocks until That's why martiniqke for many Martinicans - chlordecone stirs up painful historical memories. For two centuries, untilMartinique was a colony that depended on the production of sugar by enslaved people.
As well as campaigning for free blood tests for everyone on the island, members of the group have taken part in a new wave of protests over looiing last year aiming to draw attention to businesses that activists say have profited from the production and use of toxic pesticides. The demonstrations have been small, and some protesters have been convicted of violence against the police.
But they reflect wider anger over the slow pace of France's response to the chlordecone catastrophe. It was only in - after more than 10 years of campaigning by French Caribbean politicians - that President Emmanuel Macron accepted the state's responsibility for what he called "an environmental scandal".
He said France had suffered "collective lookkng over the issue. A law to create a compensation fund for agricultural workers has now been passed.
But payouts haven't started yet. There's contempt, distance, condescension, lack of respect. But the state's representative on Martinique, Prefect Stanislas Cazelles, insists there was no discrimination against the islanders. And the prefect hopes the independent commission that will judge compensation claims will generally rule in favour of meanigful farm workers who say they are victims of the pesticide.
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Chicas in granby, who worked with chlordecone for so many years, had an operation to remove his cancer in But he still suffers from thyroid disease and other problems that may be connected to chlordecone's known effects on the hormonal system. Meanwhile the historian, Valy, had blood cancer when she was just Her doctor does not think it was meaaningful to chlordecone.
But Valy says no-one can be sure. Worrying about the effects of the pesticide, she says, can be exhausting.
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