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Chlordecone poisoning by the banana industry in the French West Indies, Martinique and Guadeloupe

Almost all citizens from Guadeloupe and Martinique are contaminated by Chlordecone, a toxic pesticide used from 1972 to 1993 in the banana plantations. Today people are still asking for justice.


The start of the 21st century was marked by the re-discovery of ecosystem pollution by chlordecone or kepone (an organochlorine molecule) used from 1972 to 1993 in the banana plantations against the weevil plague (a type of beetles) in the French West Indies (Martinique and Guadeloupe). Chlordecone used as a pesticide led to contamination that was long-lasting, generalized, and deleterious to public health. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Chlordecone poisoning by the banana industry in the French West Indies, Martinique and Guadeloupe
State or province:Martinique & Guadeloupe
Accuracy of locationLOW (Country level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Specific commodities:Land
Fruits and Vegetables
Chemical products
Project Details and Actors
Project details

-Clordecone is an organochlorine compound and a colourless solid. It was used as a pesticide in banana plantation of Martinique and Guadeloupe from 1972 until 1993. As a highly persistent chemical in soil, it has been added to this of the Stockholm Convention of Persistant Organic Pollutants as of 2011.

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Project area:20,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:1,000,000
Start of the conflict:1972
Company names or state enterprises: Allied Signal Company from United States of America - producer of kepone
Relevant government actors:Observatoire Régional de la Santé de Guadeloupe (ORSaG); Asso- ciation martiniquaise pour la recherche épidémiologique sur le cancer (AMREC); INRA (Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique);Ministère de l’Agriculture; GREPP (Groupe régional d’étude des pollutions par les produits phytosanitaires); Grephy (Groupe régional phytosanitaire);
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:In Guadeloupe: SOS environnement Guadeloupe, Union régionale des consommateurs, Agriculture-santé-société-environnement; Syndicat Union des producteurs agricoles de la Guadeloupe; Comité de défense de l’eau en Guadeloupe.
In Martinique: ASSAUPAMAR ( Association pour la Sauvegarde du Patrimoine Martiniquais); Écologie Urbaine, MODEMAS, Martinique écologie
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
A Performance Triptych against Soil Poisoning:
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Air pollution
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Other environmental related diseases
Potential: Deaths
Other Health impactsObesity; specific impacts in men (prostate cancer); specific impacts in women: precocious pregnancies; " Képone syndrome"; specific impact in children (pre and post natal exposure);
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Violations of human rights, Specific impacts on women, Displacement, Loss of livelihood
Other socio-economic impactsSpecific impacts on men and children ; The chemical is cumulative in animal tissues affecting the whole alimentary chain.
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Land demarcation
Court decision (undecided)
Application of existing regulations
Withdrawal of company/investment
Usefulness of the land: Since 2003, local authorities have restricted cultivation of crops because the soil has been seriously contaminated by kepone.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:According to INRA (Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique), 200 to 500 years would be needed to reduce pollution. People in Martinique and Guadeloupe is dying from cancer and other diseases but no compensation has been given by the companies.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, 2011.
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References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Kepone-induced scoliosis and its histological consequences in fish.Science. 1977 Aug 5;197(4303):585-7.
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Kannari : santé, nutrition et exposition au chlordécone aux Antilles
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Malcom Ferdinand "De l’usage du chlordécone en Martinique et en Guadeloupe : l’égalité en question" . 2015 - N° 1-2 - RFAS
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RAPPORT D’INFORMATION DÉPOSÉ en application de l’article 145 du Règlement PAR LA COMMISSION DES AFFAIRES ECONOMIQUES, DE L’ENVIRONNEMENT ET DU TERRITOIRE sur l’utilisation du chlordécone et des autres pesticides dans l’agriculture martiniquaise et guadeloupéenne.
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La saga du chlordécone aux Antilles françaises Reconstruction chronologique 1968-20081
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Cabidoche Y.-M. et al. (2009), « Long-term Pollution by Chlordecone of Tropical Volcanic Soils in the French West Indies: A Simple Leaching Model Accounts for Current Residue », Environmental Pollution, vol. 157, juin, p. 1697-1705.

Book "Who's Poisoning America?: Corporate Polluters and Their Victims in the Chemical Age" (1982).Edited by Ralph Nader (Author), Ronald Brownstein (Editor), John Richard (Editor)
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Perinatal exposure to chlordecone, thyroid hormone status and neurodevelopment in infants: the Timoun cohort study in Guadeloupe (French West Indies).Environ Res. 2015 Apr;138:271-8. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2015.02.021. Epub 2015 Mar 3.
[click to view]

Multigner L. et al. (2010), « Chlordecone Exposure and Risk of Prostate Cancer », Journal of Clinical Oncology, published online by American society of clinical oncology, June.
[click to view]

Malcom Ferdinand: Presentation of the case

Living in contaminated land: Struggle for an environmental justice in contemporary Martinique and Guadeloupe”, in Castillo, M. (ed.), Heritage and Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Leiden, Leiden University Press, 2017, pp. 95-107.

Une marche contre le chlordécone et autres pesticides à Fort de France
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Josette Manin interpelle le gouvernement sur "la lente agonie" des Antillais causée par la chlordécone
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Chlordécone en Guadeloupe: dix ans après, les associations réclament des comptes à la justice
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Chlordécone : les Antilles empoisonnées pour des générations
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Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

KEPONE. A Performance Triptych against Soil Poisoning
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Art and performance: KEPONE Experiment
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Chlordécone : «Cette contamination est une atteinte au corps des Antillais»
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Meta information
Contributor:Grettel Navas (ENVJustice Project) and Malcom Ferdinand (CNRS)
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3549
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