Paraquat is one of the most widely used herbicides in the world. It is also one of the most dangerous.
Scientists have long known that paraquat, often referred to as Gramoxone, is acutely toxic. Paraquat is so toxic, in fact, that a single sip of the herbicide can kill an adult. But 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 increases the risk of Parkinson’s by 150 percent.
More than 60 countries have banned the use of paraquat. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has done little to restrict its use, despite growing health concerns and legal challenges over the herbicide’s connection to Parkinson’s. Syngenta, the main producer of paraquat, denies that there is a definitive link between paraquat and Parkinson’s.
But with paraquat use increasing in the U.S., agricultural workers and farmers continue to face exposure risks. Many have already filed lawsuits claiming that they developed Parkinson’s disease as a result of exposure to paraquat, and that Syngenta failed to warn about this serious risk.
How Is Paraquat Used?
Paraquat is widely used by farmers in the production of crops, including corn, soy, cotton, peanuts, wheat, almonds, strawberries, grapes, sweet potatoes, and others. Its use has doubled over the past decade and is expected to grow due to its effectiveness on “superweeds” that have developed resistance to glyphosate (i.e. Roundup). It can also be used for the desiccation of crops, such as cotton, prior to harvest. In total, farmers apply more than 10 million pounds of paraquat each year.
Because of its toxicity, 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.
What is the Scientific Link Between Paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease?
Numerous scientific studies have linked paraquat to Parkinson’s. A large 2011 study of U.S. farmers found that those who used paraquat were twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease as those who didn’t use the chemical. Other research has found that cumulative 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 applied correlates with the risk of developing Parkinson’s.
Scientists believe that a deficit of the neurotransmitter dopamine causes Parkinson’s. Studies have demonstrated that paraquat can kill dopamine-producing nerve cells in the brain. Inhaling paraquat, which could happen if workers come into contact with aerosolized droplets during crop spraying, gives it a direct pathway to the brain, say researchers at the University of Rochester. However, paraquat could also end up in the brain after ingestion or skin exposure. The CDC notes that, once paraquat enters the body, it is distributed to all areas of the body.
Who Is at Risk of Developing Parkinson’s From Paraquat Exposure?
Farmers and agricultural workers who work directly with and around paraquat are at the greatest risk of being exposed to paraquat. Exposure is most likely to occur in the following ways:
- Mixing or loading paraquat
- Spraying paraquat
- Maintaining tanks and equipment used to spray paraquat
- Spending time in fields where paraquat was sprayed
Exposure risks are not limited to people involved in agriculture, though. Evidence also suggests that paraquat can drift from the application site to nearby communities. Thus, people living in agricultural areas may be exposed to paraquat that is applied to crops. Paraquat may contaminate ground or well water and even contaminate fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains that are sold to the public.
Do I Qualify for a Paraquat Lawsuit?
Plaintiffs across the country have filed lawsuits claiming that they were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and that Syngenta’s paraquat weed killers are to blame. If you suffer from Parkinson’s and believe you were exposed to paraquat as a farmer or licensed pesticide applicator, you may be able to file a lawsuit. A successful lawsuit can provide compensation for medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and other losses or hardships.
Morgan & Morgan—America’s largest injury law firm—is proud to fight on behalf of America’s farmers. We’ve previously represented farmers in claims involving Monsanto’s Roundup and Dicamba. We have the strength, resources, and reputation to take on Syngenta, the world’s largest agrochemical company. Contact us and schedule a free case review to learn more about how Morgan & Morgan may be able to help you.