Paraquat, the toxic pesticide widely used on crops throughout the United States, is under the microscope for its potential link to Parkinson’s disease.
With the growing body of research showing that Paraquat could lead to the second most common progressive neurodegenerative disease — why is the United States still using this pesticide on hundreds of our crops?
The First Paraquat Lawsuit
The first Paraquat lawsuit was filed in St. Clair County circuit court on behalf of Thomas Hoffman who sued Syngenta and Growmark on September 15th, 2017, claiming he was exposed to the pesticide from farming starting in the fifth grade and subsequently was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Mr. Hoffman passed away 23 days after the suit was filed.
Robert Sprague, the attorney who filed the complaint on behalf of Mr. Hoffman stated, “Paraquat is toxic to both plant and animal cells, and that its creation of oxidative stress in cells is the source of its toxicity, has been known since the 1960s. Paraquat is among the handful of toxins that scientists use to produce animal models of Parkinson’s disease.”
Studies Link Paraquat to Parkinson’s Disease
In 2011 a study was released known as the Farming and Movement Evaluation (FAME) study which investigated the relationship between Parkinson’s disease and exposure to pesticides that are toxic to nervous tissue. This study found that people who used Paraquat developed Parkinson’s disease approximately 2.5 times more often than non-users.
The authors followed 110 people with Parkinson’s and 358 matched controls. FAME was part of a larger Agricultural Health study that followed over 80,000 licensed pesticide applicators as well as their spouses. This was a very influential study even among those who were skeptical of the connection between Paraquat and Parkinson’s.
On May 23, 2018, Scott Ryan, a University of Guelph professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, published a study in which he determined that low-level exposure to pesticides like Paraquat disrupt cells in a way that mimics the effects of mutations known to cause Parkinson’s disease.
“People exposed to these chemicals are at about a 250% higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease than the rest of the population,” said Ryan.
He believes that safety standards need to be updated to protect those who are more likely to develop Parkinson’s after pesticide exposure and may not even know it.
Currently, there is no cure or therapy to slow, stop or reverse the progression of Parkinson’s disease. The exact cause of the disease is unknown, but research points to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
A Widely Used Toxic Pesticide
Paraquat was first introduced commercially in 1961 and is used by farmers several times a year to control weeds where they plant multiple crops in a growing season or year.
Crops that are sprayed with this toxic pesticide include orchard crops, row crops, fruits, and vegetables.
Paraquat is only registered for industrial and commercial settings and not for any residential use. Monsanto’s Roundup is the world’s most popular weedkiller but weeds are becoming resistant to it and Paraquat is being marketed as an alternative.
The New York Times reports that over seven million pounds of Paraquat is being sprayed on almost 15 million acres in a year period.
Will The EPA Take Action?
In 2016 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said, “There is a large body of epidemiology data on paraquat dichloride use and Parkinson’s disease.” The agency is said to weigh in this year on whether or not to continue allowing Paraquat to be used on crops throughout the United States.
The EPA has recently introduced policies to protect farmers working with Paraquat. These include restricting its use only to certified individuals and these individuals are now required to participate in additional training.
It is important to note that Paraquat is banned in several countries including Europe, Switzerland, and China has been phasing it out since 2012. Hopefully, the United States will follow.
Parkinson’s Disease And Paraquat
TruLaw is investigating Paraquat lawsuits now. If you or a loved one has subsequently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s after exposure to Paraquat, make sure to fill out our Contact Us form on this page to help determine if you have a lawsuit to file against the manufacturer of the pesticide.
We will continue to update our readers on the status of these cases.