HONOLULU (KHON2) — Two Maui families with children born with rare illnesses are suing Monsanto and its parent company Bayer. They claim the company knowingly sprayed harmful chemicals that caused their conditions.
Dana Fulton sat looking at photos of herself after one of the surgeries she had as a baby.
“This was the surgery they fixed the esophagus, this was the surgery that connected the esophagus back to the stomach,” Fulton said pointing to a picture of herself as an infant with fresh stitches down the length of her stomach.
She was born with esophageal atresia/tracheoesophageal fistula. Today, Fulton is 28-years-old and needs a tracheostomy tube to breath.
“I had four major surgeries and hundreds of procedures. my birth defect ultimately left me with a trach tube that I breathe through 24/7. I spent nine months in the hospital. I had eight years of speech and physical therapy. I had to learn everything from walking, eating, speaking, you name it, it had to be learned,” said Fulton.
Seventeen-year-old Max Coleman had hydronephrosis, or the swelling of his kidneys. He also has severe asthma and ADHD according to his mother Lory Marques.
“I was a singly mom living on Maui. I had to fly over here for all these procedures. It’s been very, its been rough for us,” Marques said.
Both the Coleman and Fulton families lived fewer than 500 yards from Monsanto’s Mokulele Field in Kihei, Maui.
They filed a lawsuit Thursday, claiming the hazardous chemicals Monsanto sprayed on the fields caused their illnesses.
They want Mansanto to take responsibility and what happened just isn’t right.
Ilana Waxman is an attorney representing them in the case.
“This is a place where for over 30 years now Monsato has been developing and testing genetically modified seed crops.”
Waxman said the chemicals were highly toxic and were sprayed at a rate 17 times higher than most fields.
“Monsanto in spraying these large amounts of restricted use pesticide on these fields was very well aware that there was a residential neighborhood immediately downwind very well aware that the trade winds would carry these pesticides into the neighborhood,” Waxman said.
The victims said they had no clue.
“It was like wow, look at all this open land, we can run the dogs and the kids can play and we really had no idea what was actually there,” Fulton said.
Marques said she no one ever warned them of the dangers.
“When I was there in that neighborhood, nobody ever disclosed to me what was going on. I thought I lived next to a beautiful corn field. I didn’t know that this was going to have any harmful effects to my unborn child,” Coleman explained.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who is also a doctor said he has a strong feeling that there is a link between heavy pesticide use and birth defects, especially developmental defects.
“I think that the science is showing clear links that longstanding heavy use of pesticides has been a major risk factor and it’s why we had to pass buffer zone laws– finally. We have to definitely stop spraying anywhere near communities, schools, hospitals and I think we are going to see a lot of clean up in the courts with suits against Bayer and Monsanto. sadly people are already sick,” Green said.
He said he only wishes they had stopped spraying a long time ago.
Bayer Hawaii sent a statement after this report. They state:
“Safety is our top priority. On Maui, where many Bayer employees live near our farms, we take very seriously our responsibility to use all pesticide products safely and in accordance with the strict rules established by regulatory authorities. Every pesticide we use on our Maui farms has been comprehensively assessed and approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and every Bayer employee who applies the pesticides has undergone extensive training to ensure safe use for surrounding communities. The Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) conducts oversight to further ensure safe use. We have great sympathy for the plaintiffs, but we are confident that pesticide use on our Maui farms did not cause the health claims described in the lawsuit.”Bayer Crop Science Hawaii