OpenJurist

Benlate Birth Defects

Benlate is a chemical fungicide manufactured by DuPont and is used to kill fungus growing on commercial fruit and vegetable crops. It has come under scrutiny by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its possible carcinogenic qualities. Studies have also revealed the presence of significant birth defects in laboratory animals exposed to Benlate while pregnant. The product was removed from the market in 2001 by DuPont after citing an inability to front the costs of litigation associated with the chemical. Lawsuits are still pending against DuPont for injuries allegedly sustained by those exposed to Benlate.

Benlate is a powerful fungicide used both pre- and post-harvest either in the form of a dip or by crop dust. The chemical is designed to combat a wide range of diseases common to fruits and vegetables. The active ingredient, Benomyl, is produced by the DuPont chemical corporation. The chemical binds strongly to soil and does not dissolve when mixed with water.

Benlate, once one of DuPont’s most lucrative products, was removed from the market in 2001 after 33 years of commercial success. Juries across the world were linking the presence of the chemical on fruits and vegetables with significant birth defects in children. The most commonly cited defect caused by Benlate is anophthalmia which causes babies to be born without eyes or with abnormally small and underdeveloped eyes. One jury in Florida awarded a mother $4 million after her child was born without eyes. Another court in New Zealand awarded a large verdict to a mother whose child suffered similar afflictions.

The EPA has classified Benlate and its main ingredient Benomyl as possible carcinogens after laboratory tests revealed conflicting results. Studies on mice revealed the possibility that Benomyl causes tumors in the liver.

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