There is a weedkiller that has been linked to Parkinson’s disease for over a decade. Its effects on public health are so alarming and well-known that countries like Brazil and China have banned its use.

But while governments around the world curtail the application of this herbicide, one country has doubled its use: the United States.

What exactly makes this herbicide so dangerous? And if its health effects are so clear, why are we still exposing American agricultural workers and communities to it?

Read on to learn more about the history of paraquat use in America: the weedkiller that dozens of agricultural workers are alleging caused them to develop Parkinson’s disease.

Why Have Some Countries Banned Paraquat?

Paraquat is an herbicide that is sold under many different brand names, including Gramoxone, Parazone, Helmquat, Parashot, and Quik-Quat. Since 2009, multiple studies have found a strong correlation between paraquat exposure and an increased risk for developing Parkinson’s disease: a disorder that affects the central nervous system.

A 2011 study conducted by the National Institutes of Health found that farmers and agricultural laborers who sprayed paraquat were 2.5 times more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease. Another study published in The American Journal of Epidemiology reported that those who lived within 550 yards of where paraquat was sprayed were 75% more likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

The 5 stages of Parkinson's Disease infographic by The Ferraro Law Firm

Which Countries Have Banned Paraquat?

Multiple countries around the world have responded to this alarming research by banning paraquat. Switzerland prohibited the use of paraquat as early as 1989.

As more and more research has come out over the last decade showing the health effects of the herbicide, other countries and regions have followed suit. The European Union banned the use of paraquat in 2007 claiming that it was too dangerous for agricultural workers to spray, even if they wore protective clothing.

While the United States typically has stronger regulations in place to protect consumers and workers than China does, paraquat is a glaring exception. In 2017, China banned the use of the weedkiller over safety concerns. Paraquat remains just one of two chemicals that China has banned that the U.S. has not.

Just because some countries have banned the use of paraquat in their countries, does not mean they have stopped exporting it. The E.U. in particular has faced criticism for not banning paraquat exports to other countries. In July of 2020, three dozen U.N. human rights experts called on the E.U. to end this “deplorable practice.”

Thailand faced the wrath of similarly large paraquat exporters when they proposed a ban in June of 2020 on imported foods like wheat and soy that contained traces of paraquat. The U.S. and Brazil, likely worried about a potential loss in profits, argued in a statement to the World Trade Organization that Thailand lacked sufficient evidence to impose a ban. However, Brazil quickly changed its course and imposed a similar paraquat ban in September of 2020.

The EPA Renews Paraquat in the U.S. Despite Protests

While it is still legal for commercial farmers in America to spray paraquat, multiple advocacy groups have urged Congress and the EPA to ban its use. Among the most vocal is the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which collected more than 100,000 signatures in 2019 urging Congress to ban paraquat. The Unified Parkinson’s Advocacy Council has similarly spoken out about the dangers this harmful chemical poses to public health.

While a few bills have been introduced in Congress throughout recent years that would impose a ban on paraquat, all of them have died before they were voted on.

In 2020, the EPA proposed restrictions on aerial application of the herbicide to better control and limit exposure to the chemical. However, in August of 2021, those restrictions were reversed. The agency cited research provided by a private pesticide industry group in support of their decision.

Lawsuits Mount Against Paraquat Manufacturers in the U.S.

As paraquat continues to be sprayed in agricultural communities throughout the country, more and more workers and nearby residents are being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

More than 150 people have filed lawsuits against paraquat manufacturers and distributors alleging that their exposure to the chemical caused them to develop Parkinson’s disease. These manufacturers include Syngenta which sells Gramoxone. Complaints allege that these chemical corporations manufactured and sold a defective product as well as failed to warn the public of its health risks.

Anyone who was exposed to paraquat while working or living near a commercial farm and was later diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease may also qualify to pursue legal action.

The Ferraro Law Firm Is No Stranger to Holding Big Chemical Corporations Accountable

If you or a loved one were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease after being exposed to an herbicide that contains paraquat, you may be eligible for compensation for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, and more. The environmental toxic tort attorneys at The Ferraro Law Firm can review your case for free to see if you may qualify to file a lawsuit.

Pursuing justice against big chemical corporations like those who sell paraquat is no easy feat. It requires a law firm that has the resources and skills to handle complex litigation, and one that will continue to fight until victims are compensated accordingly. The Ferraro Law Firm has done just that. Our founder, James L. Ferraro, Sr., won an historic verdict against chemical giant DuPont for a fungicide that caused a client’s baby to be born without eyes.

Contact us to learn more about how we can fight for you.

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