Kepone, a major scandal still 25 years later...
France banned it because it was too dangerous. Yet, this pesticide continued to be used in the French West Indies. Here is why kepone has become a major environmental and health scandal.
What is kepone?
Unfortunately, the effects of kepone will last another 500 years. In the French West Indies, this pesticide was used to fight banana weevils, a voracious pest. Banned in France in 1990, it was nevertheless used until 1993. Over 25 years after the discontinuation of its use, 18,000 hectares are reportedly still contaminated in Martinique and Guadeloupe, which represents 25% of the arable farmland. In these areas, raising livestock is strongly discouraged as well as eating root vegetables that grow there.
Kepone is also present in rivers and the ocean. Even today, fishing is partially or totally banned in some marine areas. According to a study carried out in 2013 by France’s Public Health Agency, 95% of Guadeloupe’s population and 92% of Martinique’s population would be contaminated by kepone. It’s also classified as a potential carcinogen for humans, especially for prostate cancer. With 227.2 new cases reported for every 100,000 men each year, Martinique holds the record for this type of cancer. This former worker in the banana industry, filmed in 2010, was treated for over 5 pathologies, all linked to kepone according to him. “I’ve been wrecked. I’ve been destroyed. They used Guadeloupe as testing grounds for many chemicals… The State must take its share of responsibility for this pollution and must work toward making reparations and projects. Collective reparations, to start with, which is the goal of the action plan introduced 10 years ago for scientific research, prevention, inspections, decontamination, with the real results we have achieved.”, he explains.
Recently, shopping centers have been blocked by activists. They accuse the owners, who are descendants of French colonizers, of being responsible for the kepone pollution between 1972 and 1993. On January 13, 2020, tension mounted on the streets of Fort-de-France, in Martinique. During the trials of 7 anti-kepone activists, demonstrators clashed with the police. For 25 years, the French West Indies population have been demanding reparations, decontamination of the territory and a large-scale health plan.