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Synopsis

One farmworker tells of the soil that would “bite” him, but that was the chemicals burning his skin. Others developed lupus, asthma, diabetes, kidney failure, or suffered myriad symptoms with no clear diagnosis. Some miscarried or had children with genetic defects, while others developed cancer.

In Fed Up, Dale Slongwhite collects the nearly inconceivable and chilling oral histories of African American farmworkers whose lives, and the lives of their families, were forever altered by one of the most horrific pesticide exposure incidents in United States’ history.

For decades, the farms around Lake Apopka, Florida’s third largest lake, were sprayed with chemicals ranging from the now-banned DDT to toxaphene. Among the most productive farmland in America, the fields were doused with organochlorine pesticides, also known as persistent organic pollutants; the once-clear waters of the lake turned pea green; birds, alligators, and fish died at alarming rates; and still the farmworkers planted, harvested, packed, and shipped produce all over the country, enduring scorching sun, snakes, rats, injuries, substandard housing, low wages, and the endocrine disruptors that crop dusters dropped as they toiled.

Eventually, state and federal dollars were allocated to buy out and close farms to attempt land restoration, water clean up, and wildlife rehabilitation. But the farmworkers became statistics, nameless casualties history almost forgot. Here are their stories, told in their own words.

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