Class action suit filed over health effects of burning sugar cane

Burning field sugar cane
Burning a field of sugar cane in Hawaii. Photo by bob Bangerter.

A class action lawsuit was filed in Florida Tuesday over the health effects of burning sugar cane fields.

The four people at the front of the room where the legal action was announced included, in addition to an attorney and a state legislator, Frank Biden, brother of former Vice President Joe Biden, and former Jacksonville Jaguars running back Fred Taylor.

Fields of sugar cane are sometimes burned before manual harvesting in order to remove the dry leaves and chase away or kill any lurking venomous snakes.

Below are excerpts from an article at the Sun-Sentinel:

There have been more than 100,000 cane field burns in Palm Beach County since 2004, according to former state Sen. Joe Abruzzo, who now serves as the director of government relations at the Berman Law Group, which filed the suit.

According to Abruzzo, there are also 700 hospitalizations for asthma in Palm Beach County for every 100,000 residents. That’s significantly higher than statewide numbers. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the hospitalization rate for asthma in Florida is 142.4 out of 100,000.

“The sugar companies, they have to take responsibility for this. If nothing more, they need to promote awareness and get down to the bottom of these health issues because the community is dying,” Taylor said. “The black snow that comes from the sky, people are breathing that stuff in. They’re getting sicker and sicker every day.”

The lawsuit accuses U.S. Sugar, Florida Crystals and other sugar producers of negligence, liability for any damages caused by the burning of the fields, and trespassing in that hazardous waste landed on the property of members of the class-action suit, among other things. The suit asks the court to institute a medical monitoring program for residents of Belle Glade, South Bay, Pahokee and nearby areas, as well as asking the court to force sugar companies to stop any future crop burnings.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Bob. Typos or errors, report them HERE.