The French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique thrive on their image as idyllic sun, sea and sand destinations for tourists.
But few visitors are aware that these lush, tropical islands have a chronic pollution problem.
A pesticide linked to cancer – chlordecone – was sprayed on banana crops on the islands for two decades and now nearly all the adult local residents have traces of it in their blood.
French President Emmanuel Macron has called it an “environmental scandal” and said the state “must take responsibility”. He visited Martinique last year and was briefed on the crisis on the islands, known in France as the Antilles.
The French parliament is holding a public inquiry which will report its findings in December.
“We found anger and anxiety in the Antilles – the population feel abandoned by the republic,” said Guadeloupe MP Justine Benin, who is in charge of the inquiry’s report.
“They are resilient people, they’ve been hit by hurricanes before, but their trust needs to be restored,” she told the BBC.
Large tracts of soil are contaminated, as are rivers and coastal waters. The authorities are trying to keep the chemical out of the food chain, but it is difficult, as much produce comes from smallholders, often sold at the roadside.
Drinking water is considered safe, as carbon filters are used to remove contaminants.
In the US a factory producing chlordecone – sold commercially as kepone – was shut down in 1975 after workers fell seriously ill there. But Antilles banana growers continued to use the pesticide.