A new study will be carried out in the Antilles to measure “the evolution of the impregnation” of the population with chlordecone and other pesticides such as glyphosate, and with heavy metals such as lead, announced Public Health France (SPF ) in a press release. “This new study is important to improve knowledge in order to continue and strengthen measures to prevent exposure to chlordecone and other pollutants in the Antilles, with appropriate support measures,” explained the health agency.
The study will involve more than 3,000 randomly selected people, including 700 children aged 6 or over, from January to July in mainland Guadeloupe and Martinique. Participation will be voluntary, but it must be as broad as possible “for the success of this study”, insisted the general director of SPF, Dr Caroline Semaille, emphasizing her interest in the West Indian population.
The objective is in particular to “measure the evolution of the levels of impregnation of the population with chlordecone, ten years after the first study”. This showed that more than 9 out of 10 West Indians had detectable chlordecone in their blood and that 14% of adults in Guadeloupe and 25% in Martinique exceeded the threshold beyond which health effects are possible. Long sprayed in banana plantations to fight against the weevil, the pesticide increases the risk of premature birth, but also of developing prostate cancer.
SPF will also “evaluate the impregnation with a selection of other molecules (pesticides and heavy metals), including some for the first time such as glyphosate, metabolites of pyrethroids (insecticides) and several heavy metals (lead, arsenic, mercury) ". The study also aims to identify the factors associated with the high level of impregnation in the population or to study that of the most sensitive (children and women of childbearing age) and more exposed (agricultural workers, fishermen, residents in contaminated areas). .
Chlordecone, a pesticide used in banana plantations to combat weevils, was banned in the United States in 1975, but authorized in France from 1972 to 1990, and even until 1993 in the Antilles, where it benefited from an exemption. . The slow degradation of the molecule, and its infiltration into the water of groundwater and rivers from contaminated plots, means that it ends up in the food chain and continues to contaminate residents thirty years after the end of its use.
If they recognized a “health scandal”, investigating judges from the health center of the Paris judicial court pronounced a dismissal in early 2023 in the investigation into the poisoning of the West Indies with chlordecone, putting an end to a judicial investigation opened in 2008. Outraged, the civil parties appealed. The State, for its part, recognized its responsibility in 2019 through the Minister of Overseas Territories until 2020, Annick Girardin.