Here is an article and interview, published by Le Monde (7 June 2018) on the use of the pesticide known as chlordecone (aka kepone) in Martinique and Guadeloupe. The full title is “Scandale du chlordécone aux Antilles: ‘L’Etat a fait en sorte d’en dire le moins possible’” [Chlordecone Scandal in the Caribbean: “The State has made sure to say as little as possible”]. Journalists Faustine Vincent and Stéphane Foucart responded to questions:
Guadeloupe and Martinique have been contaminated for centuries by an extremely toxic pesticide, chlordecone, used massively in banana plantations from 1972 to 1993.
Almost everyone on these islands are also contaminated, as revealed by a study by French Public Health [Santé Publique France], whose results will be presented to the general population in October.
Why are they still exposed to the pesticide today? What is at risk? When did the scandal arise? How is the state managing this dossier? Le Monde journalists Stéphane Foucart and Faustine Vincent answered questions during an online chat.
How do you explain the fact that we are only speaking about this scandal just recently?
Faustine Vincent: This is not the first time the press has spoken of this scandal. Local media outlets have mentioned it often, but, strangely, every time, the dossier seems to fall back into oblivion in the mainland. However, it resurfaced after the publication of a controversial report by the National Agency for Food Safety [Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’alimentation (ANSES)] in December, which caused great agitation in the Caribbean.
The public agency was asked whether the maximum residue limits for chlordecone allowed in food offered sufficient protection for the population. The question is crucial because a change in European regulation in 2013 led to a dramatic increase in the authorized chlordecone limits for poultry and meat.
In its conclusions, ANSES considers that these new thresholds are sufficiently protective. According to the agency, lowering them would be useless, and it is “more relevant to act on consumer recommendations for populations that are overexposed” to the pesticide.
This opinion was perceived as a “turning point” in the way the authorities manage the dossier. People suspect the government of wanting to focus more on the economy than on health by allowing beef and poultry farmers to sell their products with higher levels of chlordecone. [. . .]
Is there danger in consuming Caribbean bananas that are sold in mainland France?
Stéphane Foucart: No, chlordecone does not “go up” the plants to the bananas. Bananas are therefore free of the product. On the other hand, root vegetables (such as yams, sweet potatoes, and others) from contaminated areas contain residues of the pesticide.
Are there any special recommendations to limit chlordecone consumption for those living in the Caribbean?
Stéphane Foucart: In its report, ANSES indicates that the people most saturated with chlordecone are those who obtain their supplies from informal channels. Those who consume eggs and poultry from contaminated areas, seafood fished at close proximity with the shore, or freshwater fish products appear to be more at risk. [. . .]
Excerpts translated by Ivette Romero. For full article (in French), see https://www.lemonde.fr/planete/article/2018/06/07/scandale-du-chlordecone-aux-antilles-l-etat-a-fait-en-sorte-d-en-dire-le-moins-possible_5311379_3244.html