Many commercially sold tomatoes have been treated with pesticides. Photo credit: The Ewan

They were pregnant and harvesting tomatoes that were treated with pesticides.

Then their babies were born with severe deformities.

The case in southwest Florida’s tomato-growing region has shocked the nation and added to the fears of chemical exposures and the effects on workers.

A sign by the large tomato field warned that the crop had been sprayed with 31 different chemicals, many of which were rated as “highly toxic”.

A recent article in the Ecologist taken from Barry Estabrook’s new book “Tomatoland” pointed to a number of possible health and safety violations that caused the women to be exposed to developmental and reproductive toxins.

Without any protective gear, the women touched and inhaled the pesticides and reported suffering from dizziness, nausea, vomiting, burning eyes and nose, rashes and open sores.

Company facing litigation for health and safety violations

The families had no means to care for the babies and many feared deportation, but they got help from a high-profile lawyers specializing in catastrophic personal injury, product liability and medical malpractice litigation who has taken on their case.

It’s a difficult process. Because of all the nearly infinite variables — heredity, exposure to chemicals at other job sites, possible smoking or drug abuse, environmental factors — cases linking pesticide exposure to birth defects are notoriously hard to prove.

In North Carolina in 2010, the North Carolina Pesticide Board voted to settle a long-standing case involving a Florida tomato grower blamed for using pesticides that led to birth defects in several workers’ children.

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