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What Is Paraquat Tongue?

Published on Dec 20, 2021 at 9:03 am in Product Liability.

Plane spraying herbicide

The condition known as “Paraquat tongue” may be one of the lesser-known side effects of exposure to the weedkilling chemical paraquat dichloride. Through research, we have gradually become more and more aware of the terrible effects that Paraquat can have on the human body. For the past several decades, increasingly greater attention has been given to the herbicide’s link to Parkinson’s disease. And, more recently, the associations between Paraquat exposure and prenatal defects have come to be acknowledged by the scientific community and the larger public.

Illnesses and birth defects such as these are typically associated with Paraquat exposure through inhalation. This form of exposure is generally long-term and accidental, and in many cases the harm goes undiscovered for years, until permanent damage has already occurred. We see this happen frequently among agricultural workers and residents of rural areas who are not aware of the dangerous consequences of repeated Paraquat inhalation.

But Paraquat tongue is a symptom associated with the oral ingestion (swallowing) of Paraquat, not inhalation. When Paraquat is swallowed, either intentionally or unintentionally, victims rarely survive. There is no antidote for Paraquat, and the chemical works rapidly and perniciously once ingested. If a victim of Paraquat poisoning does survive, permanent organ damage is likely. Because Paraquat tongue is one of the first signs—and one of the more visible signs—that a person may have swallowed Paraquat, knowing how to identify it is important. Paraquat tongue’s presence is an indication that a person requires emergency medical treatment to increase their chances of survival.

Here, we aim to provide more information about the signs of Paraquat tongue, how Paraquat ingestion happens, and how to recognize other symptoms of Paraquat poisoning. If you suspect someone may have swallowed any amount of Paraquat, dial 911 immediately.

A Paraquat lawsuit attorney from Frost Law Firm, PC is available to answer any questions you may have regarding the effects of Paraquat exposure. To learn more about how to file for a Paraquat settlement, contact our office. We are currently representing clients filing Paraquat lawsuits against the manufacturers and distributors whose negligence has caused preventable illnesses and deaths across the nation and the globe.

What Are the Signs of Paraquat Tongue?

Paraquat tongue is a condition often observed when a tongue that has come into contact with Paraquat. The following symptoms are associated with Paraquat tongue:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Lesions, sores, and open wounds covering the tongue
  • Excessive mucous production from open wounds
  • Necrosis (tissue death)
  • Severe pain
  • Burning sensations
  • Excessive saliva production
  • Difficulty swallowing

In one research study, over 85% of patients treated for Paraquat poisoning showed signs of lesions and rotting tissue in the oral cavity (areas of the mouth). In one case it was found that a patient acquired symptoms of Paraquat tongue through kissing another person who had swallowed Paraquat. This acute reaction indicated that even limited exposure to the chemical can cause severe damage, especially in the areas (like the tongue) that are most vulnerable to the toxic effects of Paraquat.

How Does Paraquat Tongue Happen?

Paraquat tongue results from the deliberate or accidental oral ingestion of a Paraquat-containing product. Paraquat as a weedkiller is sold under many different brand names and made by hundreds of agrochemical manufacturing companies. While Paraquat is banned in the European Union and dozens of nations—including China, where it is primarily manufactured—it is still sold widely for agricultural use in the United States. The chemical’s prevalence in commercial farming can lead to unintentional swallowing. However, in much of the research done on Paraquat tongue, ingestion was intentional.

Paraquat’s high rate of involvement in deaths by suicide is one factor leading to its prohibition in many countries. To be legally sold in the U.S., any Paraquat-containing product must contain a blue dye, a vomit-inducing agent, and a noxious odorant to prevent accidental swallowing. In many areas of the world, particularly agricultural countries, Paraquat self-poisoning is a common means of suicide. Estimates show intentional Paraquat ingestion to be responsible for as high as nearly 20% of all global deaths by suicide.

There is strong evidence to suggest that banning Paraquat can have some effect on lowering suicide rates. One research study showed lowered numbers of death by suicide in South Korea after the government’s decision to ban Paraquat—a 46% decrease in the rate of death by herbicide ingestion and a 10% overall decrease in death by suicide. The results of another study indicated a 37% reduction in the herbicide suicide rate in Taiwan following the Paraquat ban. Before China’s 2016 Paraquat ban, the most common method of death by suicide in the nation was herbicide ingestion.

As we’ve discussed, it’s critical that emergency medical care be sought immediately if you notice symptoms of Paraquat tongue or have any reason to suspect that someone you know may have swallowed Paraquat. Death by suicide can be prevented. For help for yourself or someone you know, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

What Are Other Symptoms of Paraquat Poisoning?

Paraquat tongue is usually one of the first symptoms to present after a person swallows Paraquat. This is because the tongue and mouth area is the first area of the body to come into contact with the toxic chemical. Following the appearance of sores, lesions, and rotting tissue in the oral cavity, the effects of Paraquat will move into the digestive tract. The CDC states that in the period immediately after swallowing Paraquat, a person may show the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Swelling in the mouth and throat
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in stool
  • Dehydration and low blood pressure

Currently, there are no universally-accepted guidelines for treating patients with paraquat poisoning. Several therapies can be used in an attempt to rid the body of poison and prevent further damage. These may include removing Paraquat from the blood and body, preventing gastrointestinal absorption, and the use of immunotherapy and antioxidants. When Paraquat tongue is observed, it is almost always an indication of similar damage in other areas of the gastrointestinal tract. Erosions in the stomach or intestines, for example, could cause much greater health risks.

Over the hours and days following Paraquat poisoning, the victim will experience symptoms including:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Heart, kidney, and liver failure
  • Lung scarring
  • Coma

Nearly all patients who survive the immediate toxicity of Paraquat suffer long-term organ damage. Some patients will continue to experience the problematic effects of lung scarring, kidney damage, a weakened heart, or damage to the esophagus that makes it difficult to swallow. These symptoms will likely persist for the remainder of the patient’s life.

Learn More About Paraquat Lawsuits

At Frost Law, PC, we devote an area of our practice to helping individuals and families whose lives have been devastated by the effects of paraquat dichloride. Our website provides more information about the legal options for those who have been affected by this dangerous weedkiller. To learn more about Paraquat lawsuits, visit our Paraquat lawsuit FAQs page.

An attorney from Frost Law, PC is available to answer questions and discuss what legal options may be available to you and your family. Please reach out to our office to schedule a free consultation.

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