Paraquat Lawsuit – Paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease
Paraquat (also known as Gramoxone), an herbicide so toxic to humans that one sip can kill, is linked to the development of Parkinson’s disease.
Research indicates that paraquat can increase the risk of Parkinson’s by 150 percent or more. But Syngenta, the herbicide’s main producer, denies the link and casts doubt on a growing body of evidence. Paraquat is widely promoted by Syngenta in both developing and industrialized countries, including the United States, and is used on more than a hundred crops worldwide.
Workers who apply paraquat are at risk for exposure. Secondary exposure, though, is also possible. Paraquat can spread, or “drift,” from the original application site, resulting in exposure to nearby communities. Contaminated food and beverages can cause exposure as well. Paraquat has additionally been found in some water supplies.
Farm workers across the country have filed lawsuits claiming that paraquat caused their Parkinson’s disease, and that the manufacturer failed to warn about the chemical’s risk of neurological damage.
Milberg is investigating the link between exposure to paraquat and Parkinson’s disease. If you were diagnosed with Parkinson’s after direct or indirect exposure to paraquat, you may qualify for legal action. Contact us for a free paraquat lawsuit case evaluation.
What is Paraquat?
Used as an herbicide since the early 1960s, paraquat dichloride is applied to control weeds and grasses. It is also applied as a pre-harvest desiccant. Paraquat has been widely used in around 130 countries for maize, orchards, soybeans, vegetables, potatoes, rice, cotton, apples, coffee, and many other major crops. Noncrop area uses include roadsides, highway margins, and around commercial buildings, power plants, storage yards, and parkways.
Paraquat is the second highest-selling weed killer globally, trailing only glyphosate. In 2015, seven million pounds were applied in the U.S. on nearly 15 million acres.
Who Makes Paraquat?
Syngenta is the major manufacturer of paraquat under the trade name Gramoxone. ChemChina purchased Syngenta in 2017. Paraquat is produced at Syngenta facilities in the UK and China, although the herbicide is banned for use (but not export) in both countries. More than 60 countries have banned paraquat.
Paraquat Heavily Regulated But Not Banned in U.S.
Paraquat has been registered as an herbicide in the United States since 1964. Because it is highly toxic, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies paraquat as “restricted use,” which means that it is only available for use by commercially licensed users.
But as more and more countries ban paraquat, the EPA has done little. Paraquat use on U.S. agricultural fields has doubled over the last decade.
Every 15 years, EPA reviews all registered herbicides as mandated by federal law. EPA began its review of paraquat in 2017 and has until October 2022 to make any changes to its future use.
In February 2019, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) submitted a petition with more than 100,000 signatories to the EPA, urging the agency to ban paraquat. MJFF notes that paraquat is associated with increased Parkinson’s risk across many scientific studies.
Scientific Studies Linking Paraquat to Parkinson’s Disease
The acute toxic effects of the herbicide paraquat are not disputed. EPA states unequivocally that, “One Sip Can Kill.” Deaths have occurred from accidental and intentional ingestion. In South Korea, parqauat is commonly used to commit suicide. Paraquat poisoning can also lead to heart, kidney, and liver failure, lung scarring, respiratory failure, seizures, and other severe side effects.
More is being learned about the effects of chronic exposure to paraquat in relatively low doses, such as the amounts experienced by agriculture workers and those who eat food with paraquat residue.
There is strong scientific evidence linking paraquat to Parkinson’s disease. Research published in 2011 known as the Farming and Movement Evaluation (FAME) study found that people who use paraquat are two and a half times, or 250% more likely to develop Parkinson’s.
Another study found that people exposed to paraquat as a teen or young adult had an increased risk of Parkinson’s of 200 to 600 percent, depending on how many years they were exposed.
Dr. Samuel M. Goldman, an epidemiologist with the San Francisco Veterans Affairs health system, said the data linking paraquat and Parkinson’s disease is “overwhelming,” while Freya Kamel, a National Institutes of Health scientist, said the body of research is “about as persuasive as these things can get.” EPA concludes that paraquat does not cause Parkinson’s when used according to the label. Legislation was introduced in July 2019 seeking a total EPA ban on paraquat.
Syngenta Disputes Paraquat Parkinson’s Link
Syngenta claims there is no definitive proof of a paraquat-Parkinson’s causal link. The company’s playbook is similar to the one used by Big Tobacco to deny the link between smoking and cancer, using its deep pockets to cast doubt on a scientifically-supported cause-and-effect relationship.
Syngenta previously claimed on its website that the 2011 FAME study actually showed farmers who use paraquat are less likely to develop Parkinson’s than the general population. Currently, the company characterizes research on paraquat and Parkinson’s disease as having “weaknesses in their study design” and providing an “inconsistent picture,” and “inconclusive” results. Syngenta’s head of product safety called the studies connecting paraquat to Parkinson’s “interesting” and “worth exploring.”
Paraquat is one of Syngenta’s most important products. Its usage is expected to grow due to glyphosate-resistant weeds and glyphosate-related lawsuits.
How Does Paraquat Cause Parkinson’s Disease?
The exact cause of Parkinson’s disease is not known, but the disease is highly correlated with industrialization. Air pollution, metal production, industrial chemicals, and synthetic pesticides are all linked to Parkinson’s. From 1990 to 2015, the number of people living with the disease more than doubled from 2.6 million to 6.3 million. The number is expected to double again to nearly 13 million by 2040.
A book published in 2020 calls Parkinson’s “a man-made pandemic.” The authors point out that “Over the last 25 years, the prevalence rates for Parkinson’s disease, adjusted for age, increased by 22 percent for the world, by 30 percent for India, and by 116 percent for China.” Men, who are more likely to work in industries that expose them to products like pesticides, solvents, and degreasing agents, have a 40 percent greater risk than women of developing Parkinson’s disease.
Patients with Parkinson’s disease experience a loss of neurons in the brain that produce the chemical messenger dopamine. It is believed that certain chemicals, including paraquat, increase production of oxidizing agents (oxidants) that damage dopamine neurons. Evidence suggests some people have a genetic disposition that makes it more likely paraquat exposure will lead to them developing Parkinson’s disease.
Most recently, a study found that breathing paraquat gives it a direct pathway to the brain. Lead author Timothy Anderson said that, “Inhalation can provide a direct route of entry to the brain. If you inhale something and it goes into your nose, it can actually enter the neurons responsible for sense of smell, and travel into the brain.”
Exposed to paraquat? Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease? You may qualify for a paraquat lawsuit. Contact us to learn your legal rights.
How People Are Exposed to Paraquat
A 2010 study found significantly higher levels of paraquat in the urine of farm workers who handled paraquat versus farm workers who did not handle it. According to the CDC, licensed applicators are the group of people most at risk of being exposed to the herbicide. For this reason, farmers have an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s.
Paraquat exposure, however, is not limited to farmers. People simply living in rural areas have elevated rates of Parkinson’s disease. Below are some of the ways that exposure can occur outside of an agricultural setting.
When paraquat is applied, it can drift through the air into residential communities. One study shows drift sickened a nearby community, with residents reporting symptoms consistent with paraquat exposure. The study concluded that the herbicide should not be sprayed near residential communities.
Contaminated water may also play a role in Parkinson’s disease. No national drinking water standard exists for paraquat levels in public water supplies, but testing in Texas found the herbicide in 29 utilities servicing more than 1.2 million people. Private wells, which are not subject to the same regulations as public systems, are another potential source of paraquat exposure.
The general population could be exposed to paraquat residue on foods. Syngenta says that there is “no risks from residues in food.” EPA sets allowable pesticide limits and the FDA enforces them. But can there really be a safe level of exposure to a toxic chemical like paraquat?
In the past, some marijuana in the United States has been found to contain paraquat. Smoking marijuana contaminated with the herbicide could cause poisoning and lung damage, as well as increase a person’s risk for Parkinson’s, especially given the risks of inhaling paraquat.
Other Health Risks Associated With Use of Paraquat
The link between paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease is not the only thing that agricultural workers should be concerned about. Use of the herbicide can also result in poisoning via ingestion, inhalation, and skin exposure.
Licensed applicators are at risk of poisoning, which causes toxicity throughout the body, primarily in the lungs, liver, and kidneys. Long-term health problems associated with paraquat dichloride poisoning include lung scarring, kidney failure, heart failure, and scarring of the esophagus.
When to See a Doctor
The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include tremors, slowed movement, rigid muscles, posture and balance problems, and changes in speech and writing. There is no specific test to diagnose the disease, and diagnosis may not be immediate. If you are experiencing symptoms, it is recommended to schedule a visit with a neurologist. You may also want to speak with a lawyer about a paraquat lawsuit.
The Costs of Living With Parkinson’s
Finding out that you have Parkinson’s may come as a shock. Once you’ve had time to come to terms with your diagnosis, you may want to consider your legal options.
Living with Parkinson’s is very expensive. The cost of doctor consultations, hospitalization, medications, and therapies can easily reach tens of thousands of dollars per year. In addition to medical expenses, patients and their families can have costs such as lost wages due to an inability to work, early forced retirement, and family caregiver time. Those who cannot work due to Parkinson’s may lose employer-sponsored healthcare benefits and have difficulty qualifying for private coverage because of their Parkinson’s.
Paraquat lawsuits can help to ease the financial burden of living with Parkinson’s. Syngenta did not warn that being exposed to the herbicide could cause you to develop Parkinson’s disease. By filing a paraquat lawsuit, you can hold the manufacturer accountable and make sure that you receive the best care possible.
Find Out if You Are Eligible For a Paraquat Lawsuit
The more that’s learned about paraquat exposure and Parkinson’s disease, the clearer the link becomes. Our lawyers are continuing to research this troubling association. As part of our paraquat lawsuit investigation, we’re speaking to Parkinson’s patients who may have been exposed to paraquat, either occupationally or in their community.
Our Environmental and Toxic Torts attorneys have a strong track record of holding powerful corporations accountable for harming the environment and damaging the health of residents. We have decades of experience filing lawsuits against the largest and most powerful corporations in the world, with billions and billions of dollars recovered for our clients.
If you or a loved one were exposed to paraquat and developed Parkinson’s disease, you may have the right to take legal action. A free paraquat lawsuit review from Milberg is the first step in the process. Contact us today to talk to a lawyer.