Paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease
Paraquat is one of the most commonly used herbicides in the United States. It is widely used by farmers in the production of various crops, including corn, soy, cotton, peanuts, wheat, almonds, strawberries, grapes, sweet potatoes and others. It is a quick-acting, non-selective herbicide, and it is marketed to kill green plant tissue on contact.
The key characteristics that distinguish paraquat from other agents used in plant protection products are:
- It kills a wide range of annual grasses and broad-leaved weeds and the tips of established perennial weeds.
- It is fast-acting.
- It is rain-fast within minutes of application.
- It is partially inactivated upon contact with soil.
The use of paraquat has doubled over the past decade and is expected to grow due to its effectiveness on “superweeds” that have developed resistance to other herbicides, such as glyphosate (i.e., Roundup). In total, farmers apply more than 10 million pounds of paraquat each year.
Because of the dangerous toxicity levels, the EPA classifies paraquat as a “restricted use pesticide.” Only certified applicators who undergo EPA-approved training are able to use paraquat products. There are no homeowner uses for paraquat and the herbicide may not be applied in residential areas or around schools, parks, golf courses, or playgrounds.
Paraquat is toxic to both human beings and animals. It has been linked to the development of Parkinson’s disease, and its use has been banned in more than 60 countries. In recent years, evidence has accumulated showing that repeated exposure to paraquat in low doses may be linked to the development of Parkinson’s disease. According to one study, exposure to paraquat may increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease as much as 150 percent.
More than 60 countries have banned the use of paraquat. Despite growing health concerns and legal challenges over the herbicide’s connection to Parkinson’s the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has done little to restrict its use. With paraquat use increasing in the U.S., agricultural workers and farmers continue to face risks from exposure to paraquat. Some have filed lawsuits claiming that they developed Parkinson’s disease as a result of exposure to Paraquat and that paraquat manufacturer Syngenta failed to warn about this serious risk.
The Connection Between Parkinson’s Disease and Paraquat Exposure
Parkinson’s disease is most frequently associated with characteristic motor symptoms that are known to arise with degeneration of dopaminergic neurons of the midbrain (the main source of dopamine in the central nervous system). Scientific studies have demonstrated that paraquat can kill dopamine-producing nerve cells in the brain. Inhaling paraquat, which could happen when workers come into contact with aerosolized droplets during crop spraying, gives it a direct pathway to the brain, according to researchers at the University of Rochester. The CDC notes that, once paraquat enters the body, it is distributed to all areas of the body.
Several studies have examined the use paraquat and its potential link to the development of Parkinson’s disease. According to recent scientific research, individuals who have been exposed to paraquat may be twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease. Additionally, those who live in areas where paraquat is used are also at risk, as the wind can carry the airborne chemical into neighborhoods and other populated areas.
A broad 2011 study of U.S. farmers found that those who used paraquat were as much as twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease as those who didn’t use the product. Additional research has found that consistent exposure over long periods increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s. Data published by Louisiana State University shows that a person’s zip code and proximity to cropland where paraquat is used correlates with the risk of developing Parkinson’s. Despite numerous scientific studies into paraquat’s safety, the company responsible for the pesticide has refused to acknowledge the potential risks and has exposed thousands of innocent individuals to a hazardous chemical for over a decade.
Persons at Risk from Paraquat Exposure
Agricultural workers and farmers who work directly with and around paraquat are at the greatest risk of being exposed to dangerous levels of paraquat. Exposure is most likely to occur in the following ways: (1) the mixing or loading paraquat, (2) the spraying of paraquat, (3) maintaining tanks and equipment used to spray paraquat and (4) spending time in fields where paraquat is sprayed.
The risks associated with paraquat exposure, however, are not limited to people involved in farming and agriculture. Evidence also suggests that paraquat can drift from the application site to nearby communities. Accordingly, people living in agricultural areas may be exposed to paraquat that is applied to nearby crops. Paraquat may contaminate ground or well water and even contaminate fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains that are sold to the public.
Compensation for Exposure to Paraquat
Many individuals with exposure to paraquat have developed Parkinson’s disease, including persons who live near agricultural areas where the harmful chemical is used. The widespread use of the substance makes it especially unsettling, as many farmers heavily rely on paraquat without understanding its destructive effects.
Existing lawsuits allege that Syngenta knew the risk of their product yet failed to disclose it to the public, which allowed thousands of agricultural workers to be exposed without any knowledge of the harmful side effects. Those who suffer from Parkinson’s require consistent treatment to increase their quality of life, which comes at a significant expense to endure without proper compensation. By holding Syngenta responsible for its negligence, plaintiffs may be able to recover medical costs, lost wages, and damages for pain and suffering caused by the use of paraquat.
Lawsuits for Exposure to Paraquat
Across the country, plaintiffs have filed lawsuits alleging that they were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease that was caused by exposure to paraquat, and that Syngenta is to blame. If you suffer from Parkinson’s and have been exposed to paraquat as a farmer or licensed pesticide applicator, you also may be eligible to file a lawsuit. A successful lawsuit may help provide compensation for medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and other losses or hardships.