The pesticide dibromochloropropane, known as DBCP, was developed by the chemical companies Dow and Shell in the 1950s to target worm-like, soil-dwelling creatures called nematodes. Despite signs that it was dangerous, the chemical was widely used in U.S. agriculture and on Chiquita and Dole Central American banana plantations. In the late 1970s, DBCP was linked to male sterility, setting off an uneven regulatory process while continued use left some workers – especially on Dole's banana plantations – exposed for years after dangers were known.
Susanna Bohme tells an intriguing multilayered history of DBCP that spans fifty years to highlight the transnational reach of corporations and social justice movements. Toxic Injustice links health inequalities and worker struggles as it charts how people excluded from workplace and legal protections have found ways to challenge power structures. In contrast to most studies on the effects of globalization, Toxic Injustice provides a bold and multidisciplinary integration of many perspectives – environmental, legal, medical, labor, industrial, and transnational – to interrogate the way nation-states remain crucial forces and to demonstrate the boundaries and opportunities faced by those seeking justice from elite national and transnational actors.
Susanna Bohme is a lecturer in history and literature at Harvard University.