weed killer being poured into a sprayer

Does Paraquat Cause Parkinson’s Disease?

Although it is argued that there is not sufficient, definitive proof that paraquat causes Parkinson’s disease, multiple studies indicate that paraquat exposure increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s. Because paraquat is only available to certified applicators, these licensed professionals are the people most at risk for exposure.

What Is Paraquat Used For?

Also known as Gramoxone, paraquat dichloride is one of the most widely used herbicides in the United States. The toxic weed killer is used to control weeds in many agricultural and non-agricultural settings. Paraquat is an industrial herbicide and is not approved for use in residential areas.

Syngenta, a Swiss herbicide manufacturer, is responsible for the majority of paraquat sales, and China produces more than 100,000 tons of the chemical each year. Paraquat has been used commercially in the United States since 1961, and global paraquat sales bring in approximately $640 million each year.

How Does Paraquat Affect Human Health?

Paraquat is alleged to be extremely toxic, especially when ingested. One small sip could be enough to kill you, and there is no antidote. To keep people from accidentally drinking paraquat, the chemical is marked with a blue dye, a sharp odor, and an agent that induces vomiting upon ingestion. Paraquat is toxic to vital organs –including the liver, kidneys, heart, and respiratory system – and corrosive to the skin, eyes, and lining of the mouth, stomach, and intestines.

Additionally, paraquat exposure is concerned to be linked to Parkinson’s disease, decreased respiratory function, and cancer. While the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States did not find “sufficient evidence” of the chemical’s adverse health effects, paraquat has been banned in the European Union since 2007. Even China, where the majority of the world’s paraquat is manufactured, started phasing out the chemical in 2012. Overall, paraquat is banned in 32 countries worldwide.

Public Health Scares

If inhaled, paraquat can cause lung damage. In the 1970s, marijuana sprayed with paraquat crossed the border from Mexico into the United States and caused a public health scare. Similarly, paraquat became a popular agent for murders and suicides in the 1980s, particularly in Japan and South Korea. From 1990 to 2014, there have been 27 deaths and more than 200 incidents of harmful exposure involving paraquat in the United States alone.

Perhaps the most notorious public health issue linked to paraquat is the growing body of research linking paraquat to Parkinson’s disease.

Paraquat and Parkinson’s

Paraquat has been concerned to be linked to Parkinson’s disease in studies going back decades, but a 2011 study from the National Institute of Health (NIH) renewed interest in the important public health issue.

Syngenta rejected the implications of the study, even going as far as to fire back against the study on its website. Still, another study strengthened the link between paraquat and Parkinson’s in 2012, revealing that paraquat could increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease by as much as 11 times in some individuals.

Later, in 2016, yet another study linked paraquat to Parkinson’s, explaining that Paraquat-induced cell death may cause or contribute to the nervous system disorder.

Enough Evidence to Sue

Although Syngenta continues to deny the link between paraquat and Parkinson’s, farmers and agricultural workers are developing Parkinson’s disease at an alarming rate. Some of these professionals have come forward to file a class-action lawsuit against Syngenta, and 2 other paraquat manufacturers: Growmark and Chevron Chemical.

Plaintiffs filed the lawsuit on October 6, 2017, in St. Clair County, Illinois. If you developed Parkinson’s disease after working with paraquat, you may be able to join the suit or pursue an individual claim.

At Brett H. Oppenheimer, PLLC, we’ve been handling toxic exposure lawsuits for more than a decade. Attorney Oppenheimer can help you explore your legal options and guide you through the process from start to finish.

Call Brett at (502) 242-8877 today or contact our firm for a free consultation.

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