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For 15 years or more, the powerful and toxic herbicide Paraquat has been banned in the European Union and China. But despite a growing body of research linking Paraquat exposure to the development of Parkinson’s disease, Paraquat is still for sale in the U.S.—albeit restricted to commercial farmers and growers only. Those who have been exposed to Paraquat through their jobs may be entitled to compensation if this exposure can be linked to certain medical conditions.
Below, we discuss how occupational exposure to Paraquat has been linked to Parkinson’s, as well as what you can do if you or a loved one has developed Parkinson’s after using Paraquat at work.
Table of Contents
What is Paraquat?
Paraquat is a bright blue, strong-smelling herbicide that is incredibly powerful—just two teaspoons, if ingested, is enough to kill an adult. It’s most commonly used to control grass cover crops or volunteer weeds and can control the growth of both annual and perennial broad-leaf weeds (like chickweed, clover, dandelion, plantain, and thistle).
The below list includes some of the more widely-used brand names of Paraquat herbicide on the market. However, there are many others being sold and used every day in the U.S. Keep an eye out for the following brand names:
- Cyclone SL 2.0
- Marman Herbiquat
- Ortho Paraquat CL
As you can tell from this list, any herbicide that includes “Para” or “Quat” in its name is likely to have Paraquat as an active ingredient.
Who is at Risk of Paraquat Exposure?
Anyone who has long-term exposure to Paraquat can be at increased risk of developing conditions like Parkinson’s. But because occupational exposure is so common, there are entire industries, such as the agricultural industry, that have a heightened risk of direct exposure. These are just some of the workers who are likely to have been exposed to Paraquat products while on the job:
- Farm workers
- Certified applicators
- Herbicide applicators
- Tank fillers and transporters
- Agricultural workers
- Chemical mixers
- Crop dusters
The Dangers of Paraquat Exposure
When this toxic chemical comes into contact with surface soils, it generally photodecomposes within a few weeks. However, Paraquat that has seeped into sub-surface soils and sediments may remain “bound” for many years without degrading, increasing environmental exposures for those who come into contact with these soils or even those who just live nearby.
Paraquat works by killing plant cells through “oxidative stress.” The same process that kills these plant cells can harm humans’ dopamine production systems. Without adequate dopamine production and reception, your brain can’t communicate with other parts of your body. Over time, Paraquat exposure can cause Parkinson’s disease, a progressive neurological disorder that’s in the same family as multiple sclerosis (MS), Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).
Some of the earliest Parkinson’s disease symptoms include motor symptoms such as tremors, trouble balancing, muscle stiffness, and poor coordination. As the disease progresses, the patient may lose more motor function and require round-the-clock care. Although there are medications that are designed to alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson’s, there is no cure, and there’s not much that can be done to stop the progression of symptoms.
Along with its effects on humans, Paraquat has been shown to cause toxic effects on other mammals and birds. Even at concentrations that are below the application rate recommended for farmland, Paraquat can be toxic to the eggs of waterfowl, frogs, carp, and crustaceans. Larger animals that rely on these eggs as part of their food source will often suffer ill effects as well.
Occupational Exposure to Paraquat
Despite the Paraquat Parkinson’s link, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) still allows the use of Paraquat in certain applications. And although recent rules promulgated by the EPA prohibit any Paraquat application that uses backpack sprayers (or having anyone on the ground while Paraquat is applied), aerial spraying is still permitted—up to 350 acres every 24 hours. This type of exposure to an industrial herbicide can significantly increase one’s risk of chronic health problems.
In other words, those who work on or near commercial farms may be at risk of being exposed to Paraquat, whether or not they actually use or apply Paraquat themselves. And those who worked on an industrial farm, or in agricultural settings before the sale and use of Paraquat was restricted to commercial farmers could also be at risk of experiencing the harmful side effects of these dangerous products. Although the link between Paraquat exposure alone isn’t enough to guarantee someone will develop Parkinson’s, the connection is clear, and those who have a history of chronic exposure to Paraquat should be diligent about medical check-ups and screenings that can help identify any illnesses as quickly as possible.
If you or a loved one has been exposed to one of the Paraquat-containing herbicides listed above and have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s or any other neurological conditions, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Complete our free case evaluation form located here today and we will be in touch to get the ball rolling on your potential legal claim.
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