Paraquat is an organic compound in the form of salt and is one of the most widely used herbicides in the world. In the United States, it is primarily available as a solution and is used in agriculture for crops, including soybean, cotton, corn, wheat, alfalfa, hay, and tobacco as well as in vineyards and orchards, especially those growing almonds and citrus fruits. It is also applied as a pre-harvest desiccant on some crops, such as cotton. Because the overuse of the weedkiller glyphosate (Roundup) has given rise to the emergence of Roundup-resistant weeds, there has been a renewed and steady increase in the use of Paraquat in its place, and its use doubled in the U.S. from 2013-2017.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) classifies Paraquat as a “restricted use product” due to its extreme toxicity. This designation means that it can be handled only by certified pesticide applicators. The EPA requires that “Certified Paraquat Applicators” go through a training program before they are allowed to mix, handle, load, or apply Paraquat.
Because of its extreme toxicity, Paraquat is currently banned in most countries and the European Union banned usage in 2007. However, Paraquat manufactured by Syngenta in Britain, where it is banned, was shipped to more than two dozen countries in 2016, including the U.S. In the U.S., Paraquat is marketed under a variety of product names, including Gramoxone, Firestorm, Helmquat, Parazone, Cyclone, and Para Shot, among others.
Ingestion of Paraquat even in small doses can be fatal, and there is no antidote. The EPA has found a disproportionately higher number of deaths resulting from accidental and intentional ingestion of Paraquat reported to U.S. poison control centers compared to similar pesticides. As a result, there have been safeguards put in place to protect accidental exposure to Paraquat. For instance, blue dye, a sharp odor, and a vomiting agent were added to Paraquat in the 1980s to help prevent accidental ingestion.
How Paraquat Exposure Happens
Paraquat exposure can happen through skin contact and absorption, breathing the droplets through the nose or mouth, and accidental ingestion. Exposure can happen while mixing, loading, or applying the herbicide. Paraquat is known for drifting, especially in dry conditions. Therefore, people living on or near farms, orchards, or vineyards using Paraquat can be unwittingly exposed to it. Also, due to overuse in farming and agriculture, oftentimes Paraquat can find its way into foods and water causing many people to unintentionally be exposed.
Paraquat Exposure & Parkinson’s Disease
Paraquat exposure has been shown to increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease. Once Paraquat enters the body, it causes a cascade of damaging chemical reactions that continue long after Paraquat has been excreted from the body. These reactions generate free radicals and result in oxidative stress. Studies have shown that oxidative stress is a major contributing factor in Parkinson’s disease. Formation of free radicals and oxidative stress damage cellular structures in certain neurons (nerve cells) in mid-brain regions, especially in a structure known as substantia nigra. These neurons are known as dopaminergic neurons, and their destruction leads to motor deficits, rigidity, tremors, and postural disturbance along with other neurological deficits observed in Parkinson’s disease.
The link between Paraquat and Parkinson’s disease is so well-established that researchers in the field have used Paraquat for many years to create Parkinson’s symptoms in laboratory animals in their efforts to gain a better understanding of this disease. Research indicates that low-level chronic human exposure to Paraquat significantly increases the risk of Parkinson’s disease.
In 2009, research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology revealed that any exposure to Paraquat within 1,600 feet of a home resulted in a heightened Parkinson’s disease risk of 75%. In 2011, the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, in association with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, published results from a study of Parkinson’s disease cases and pesticides; unsurprisingly, Paraquat surfaced as a substantial concern.
In 2011, data from the National Institute of Health (NIH) Farming and Movement Evaluation study indicated that farmers using Paraquat may be 2.5 times more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease. In 2014, the Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology published findings related to environmental toxins and Parkinson’s disease. The findings included five case-control studies that revealed a greater risk of Parkinson’s disease in individuals who had experienced exposure to Paraquat.
A 2018 meta-analysis of thirteen case-control studies published in Archives of Environmental & Occupational Health showed a statistically significant increased risk of Parkinson’s disease in subjects exposed to Paraquat. Finally, on October 6, 2017, a lawsuit was filed against Syngenta and Growmark, the manufacturers of Paraquat. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of farmers and agricultural workers who had developed Parkinson’s disease after being exposed to Paraquat.
Fulmer Sill is Here to Help
If you or a loved one are experiencing adverse side effects or have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease following potential exposure to Paraquat, our team is here to help. Count on our years of experience and extensive resources to seek justice on your behalf. We’ll help you understand your legal options and be there to support you every step of the way. We have recently dealt with the detrimental impacts of herbicides and were successful in settling all of our Roundup cases.
All initial consultations are free, and we don’t charge any up-front fees for representation. Fulmer Sill handles all fees on a contingency basis, meaning that unless we’re successful, you don’t have to pay us.
Please contact us at (405) 510-0077 for a free consultation.
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