Paraquat, also referred to as paraquat dichloride, is one of the most widely used industrial herbicides on the market. Despite its popularity, it’s one of the most dangerous weed killers available. Any exposure—whether on the skin or inhaled—can cause irreversible organ and tissue damage, and ingesting any amount can instantly cause death. Additionally, studies have shown that individuals who are exposed to Paraquat are up to 2.5 times more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than those who are not.
These facts have caused over 30 countries worldwide to ban the herbicide or make it otherwise unavailable for purchase. In the United States, however, Paraquat is still readily available, although it is restricted to commercial use only. If you or someone you love was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and was exposed to Paraquat, you should consider contacting a California Paraquat lawsuit lawyer from Frost Law Firm, PC. Our attorneys may be able to help your family recover compensation.
What You Need to Know About Paraquat
Paraquat is a powerful herbicide used to control unwanted grass and weed growth in both agriculture and non-agriculture sites. It’s often used on vegetation growth that’s resistant to other, weaker types of glyphosate-containing weed killers like Roundup. Paraquat does not contain glyphosate.
Paraquat is also commonly applied to crops pre-harvest. Farmers in the U.S. currently use more than 8 million pounds of it each year. The most common crops Paraquat is used on include citrus, wheat, corn, soy, peanuts, almonds, garlic, cotton, sweet potatoes, artichokes, pears, strawberries, and grapes. Illegal marijuana crops in the United States and Mexico are also sometimes doused with Paraquat. Paraquat is restricted and therefore not available for household use, but it has been used commercially for more than 50 years in the U.S.
Paraquat is commonly known by the brand name Gramoxone. Gramaxone SL 2.0 Herbicide is manufactured by Syngenta, an agrichemical corporation based in Switzerland. Other common corporations that manufacture and sell Paraquat include Growmark and Chevron. Altogether, these companies earn more than $600 million every year in global sales by selling products containing Paraquat.
Other brand or trade names Paraquat is known by include:
- Para-SHOT 3.0
- Cyclone SL 2.0
- Helmquat 3SL
Why Is Paraquat Dangerous?
Paraquat is restricted for industrial and commercial use only because the herbicide is so toxic. It can be toxic to the human body whether it is ingested, exposed to skin contact, or inhaled.
When the chemical is ingested, paraquat poisoning can occur. The symptoms of paraquat poisoning after it’s ingested are immediate and include pain, swelling, and damage to the mouth, throat, and intestines in addition to vomiting. As the chemical reaches other parts of the body, the toxicity affects the lungs, liver, and kidneys, causing irreversible damage and liver failure. If a large amount of paraquat is ingested, survival is rare.
Even skin exposure may cause paraquat poisoning. If skin exposure lasts for an extended amount of time or the exposure involves a concentrated version of the chemical, blood and organ damage is possible.
When Paraquat is inhaled, it can cause irreparable damage to the lungs. According to research conducted by the medical journal Toxicological Sciences, prolonged exposure can additionally begin to cause brain damage, including symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. In the study that was conducted, mice exposed to Paraquat began to lose their sense of smell, which is one of the most common early signs of Parkinson’s.
This research is consistent with studies that were conducted in 2018 which found that Paraquat and other similar herbicides can disrupt cells in a way which mimics the effects of mutations that are known to cause Parkinson’s disease. In 2019, another study found that Parkinson’s disease occurred 25% more times in those who have been exposed to Paraquat. This percentage was even higher in individuals who were exposed for a prolonged period.
Research was also conducted in 2019 that investigated 31 common herbicides and their association with the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. The herbicide that was found to be the most dangerous was Paraquat, with 2-3 times the increased risk factor over individuals who were not exposed to the chemical in weed killers.
Paraquat affects living cells by producing reactive oxygen molecules which cause oxidative stress—therefore damaging cells. This mechanism of oxidative stress is commonly seen in patients who have Parkinson’s disease. It is believed that oxidative stress can cause nerve cells to die off, which is one of the main effects of Parkinson’s.
Symptoms and Effects of Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease, often abbreviated to PD, is a progressive nervous system disorder. Its symptoms—most of which affect the movement of the body—start gradually and get worse over time. Patients with Parkinson’s generally have trouble walking, talking, and moving their limbs. Many patients also experience behavioral and mental changes.
While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, patients can feel some relief from symptoms from taking certain medications and even brain surgery.
The most common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include but are not limited to:
- Stiffness in the limbs and frame of the body
- Tremoring of the hands, arms, legs, neck, or jaw
- Impaired balance and coordination (which may lead to falls)
- Slow movements or a gradual decrease in movement speed
- Difficulty speaking, swallowing, or chewing
- Loss of smell
- Skin problems
- Disruption in sleep patterns
- Emotional changes such as depression
- Trouble urinating
PD is caused by the breaking down and dying of neurons in the brain. Neurons are nerve cells. The neurons most affected by PD are neurons that produce dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for transmitting signals between the nerves that are responsible for body movement, memory, attention, motivation, and more.
There is still a great deal that scientists are learning about Parkinson’s disease every day. Currently, it is thought that genetic mutations, very specific changes in the brain, and environmental factors play the largest roles in causing someone to develop the disease.
The use of herbicides undeniably plays a large role in determining the overall healthiness and safety of the environments we live and work in, especially those in rural areas close to where crops are planted. A new study published in 2021 has found that there may be links between Paraquat exposure and prenatal health defects, suggesting that environmental exposure may be more dangerous than many initially thought.
To best protect those who live near or work in farms and industrial areas where herbicides like Paraquat are used, manufacturers should be doing everything they can to limit exposure as well as continually improve their products to minimize exposure. When these efforts aren’t taken, individuals and their loved ones may suffer.
What Can Be Done About Paraquat?
With every new study and set of data, it’s becoming more and more clear that there may be a major link between Parkinson’s disease and the use of Paraquat. Given the highly toxic nature of Paraquat as well as studies such as those mentioned above, it should come as no surprise that many countries around the world are taking steps to ban the use of Paraquat outright or ensure alternatives to the dangerous weed killer exist.
Here in the United States, organizations like the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research notified the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2017 about the dangers of Paraquat and the potential link to Parkinson’s disease. The EPA declined to act.
In 2019, the same foundation submitted a petition to the EPA calling for a Paraquat ban. The petition had over 100,000 signatures. This prompted U.S. legislation to introduce a proposed act, the Protect Against Paraquat Act of 2019, to Congress.
Despite the petition and the proposed act, the EPA still declined to act. The organization reviewed more than 70 articles investigating negative health outcomes, including PD, and decided against a ban on Paraquat and instead recommended mitigation measures to reduce potential exposure. Now, the EPA has until 2022 to decide on the herbicide’s future use.
There is also a failure to act on the manufacturer’s behalf. Since there is data currently being released saying that there is a potential link between Paraquat and Parkinson’s disease, the manufacturers should have taken it upon themselves to warn customers about the potential link and the associated dangers of prolonged exposure. The manufacturers have not done so and Paraquat remains on the market.
Why Are Paraquat Lawsuits Being Filed?
Given the links between Parkinson’s disease and Paraquat as well as the fact that the EPA is failing to ban the herbicide and manufacturers are failing to warn customers, the next step in protecting individuals and families from suffering the effects of PD lies in the legal system. In the U.S., when it can be proven by a court of law that someone has suffered from an act or inaction that could have been prevented, citizens have the right to file a lawsuit against a negligent individual, group, or company to encourage change as well as ease suffering.
In the case of Paraquat, multiple lawsuits have now been mounted against the companies that manufacture the herbicide. The main three corporations involved in the Paraquat lawsuits so far include:
- Chevron Corporation
Lawsuits are being filed by plaintiffs who have either suffered from the effects of exposure or been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease after being exposed to Paraquat. By working with an experienced Paraquat lawsuit lawyer, an individual or a family can get the help they need to file a case.
The lawsuits state that the manufacturers failed to do the following:
- Adequately research the connection between Parkinson’s disease and Paraquat.
- Perform tests to determine the extent to which paraquat spray drift was likely to occur as well as its effects.
- Warn consumers about the risks of Paraquat exposure.
- Design, formulate, and package the weed killer to make it unlikely to be inhaled, ingested, or otherwise absorbed.
- Protect their workers from the side effects of Paraquat.
- Correctly represent the safety of Paraquat.
By filing a lawsuit against a manufacturer who has been negligent by failing to do any or multiple of the above, an individual or family may be able to receive compensation that can go a long way toward a better life. While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, new research is being done every day to ease its effects and possibly find a cure.
In addition, by filing a legal claim with the help of a product liability lawyer who is experienced in paraquat litigation, the manufacturers of Paraquat may be forced to take steps to better warm customers about the associated risks and dangers, redesign the herbicide to create a safer formula, or take it off the market completely. The EPA may also push the herbicide toward being banned or more heavily restricted than it currently is, which will help keep others safe from dangerous exposure.
Speak to a California Paraquat Lawsuit Lawyer Today
If you or a loved one has been exposed to Paraquat or any of the herbicide’s trade names and has suffered from side effects related to Parkinson’s disease or has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, you should consider reaching out to the experienced Paraquat lawsuit attorneys at Frost Law Firm, PC at your earliest convenience.
Our lawyers are well-versed in complex lawsuits against major corporations that have negligently enabled others to suffer. We will be able to walk you through the process of filing a Paraquat lawsuit in California and help you decide if going forward with legal action is in your family’s best interests. To learn more, get in touch. You an also learn more about current legal proceedings by reading our 2021 Paraquat litigation blog or by reading our FAQ.