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Understanding the Relationship Between Paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease

A man being tested for parkinsons disease.

Some people have genetic links to Parkinson’s Disease, but why the majority of people develop the disease without the genetic link is still unknown. Scientists believe that a mix of both genetic and environmental factors lead to people developing the disease. Some studies have suggested that exposure to pesticides leads to an increased risk of someone developing Parkinson’s.

What Is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s Disease is a nervous system disorder that affects movement. In people with Parkinson’s Disease, certain brain nerve cells gradually break down, causing a loss of dopamine and abnormal brain activity. It is a progressive disease with no cure. The most common characteristic of Parkinson’s Disease is tremors. Other symptoms include slowed movements, muscle stiffness, impaired posture, and speech changes. It can also contribute to non-movement issues such as depression, sleep disorders, and cognitive impairment. The disease happens more often in men than women, and the risk increases with age.

What Is Paraquat?

Paraquat is a commercial-grade herbicide. Over 30 countries have already banned Paraquat, including the European Union. However, it is still commonly used in United States farming. It is considered to be one of the most acutely lethal pesticides, and even one small sip of the pesticide would be fatal. Basically, it destroys everything it is sprayed on. Farmers use it to destroy all plant and grass growth between plantings. It is so toxic that the United States version has blue dye, a sharp odor, and a vomiting agent added to prevent poisoning. Paraquat poisoning results in about 100 deaths in the United States annually.

The Environmental Protection Agency restricted its use to licensed, trained applicators. However, Paraquat use is increasing and has doubled between 2006 and 2016. Apparently, this is because many weeds developed a resistance to less toxic herbicides containing glyphosate—the active ingredient found in RoundUp, which is also at the root of class action litigation due to its link with cancer.

Exposure to Paraquat can happen through ingestion, skin contact, or inhalation. Immediate side effects include stomach pain, mouth and throat swelling, dehydration, vomiting, and decreased blood pressure. Long-term exposure can lead to organ failure, seizures, coma, lung scarring, difficulty breathing, congenital disabilities, and impaired movement.

In 2019, Representative Nydia Velazquez of New York introduced a bill called the Protect Against Paraquat Act in the House of Representatives. If passed, the bill would ban Paraquat and cancel its EPA registration. The House referred the bill to the Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research, but no decision has yet been reached.

What Is the Connection Between Paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease?

There are no studies that conclusively linked Paraquat exposure and Parkinson’s Disease; however, there is enough evidence to strongly suggest a relationship. Scientists found three times more occurrences of Parkinson’s Disease in areas with higher Paraquat exposure. The studies have found that agricultural workers, in particular, had five times the risk of developing Parkinson’s. For workers who also show a particular genetic variant, their risk is 11 times higher.

Oxidative stress is a major factor in the degeneration and death of the neurons associated with Parkinson’s Disease. Oxidative stress is an imbalance of free radicals in the body that leads to cell and tissue damage. Paraquat causes and contributes to cell degeneration and death directly through oxidation and indirectly through oxidative stress by interfering with essential cellular functions. These brain cells relate to dopamine production, and their degeneration is believed to lead to Parkinson’s Disease.

Paraquat Litigation

Paraquat victims filed the first lawsuits against Paraquat in late 2017 in Illinois. As of August 2021, over 300 lawsuits have been filed against Paraquat in the United States. Multidistrict litigation (MDL) was filed in the Southern District of Illinois to accelerate and consolidate the proceedings. That jurisdiction made sense because it is a mainly agricultural region and farmers there widely used Paraquat. For a lawsuit with such a high number of cases, an MDL is appropriate because it centralizes the litigation filed throughout the federal court system and places it before one U.S. District Judge. This eliminates conflicting rulings, duplicative discovery, and it is more convenient for common parties, witnesses, and the judicial system.

The lawsuits’ primary claim is that Paraquat’s manufacturers and sellers did not do their part to make Paraquat’s users aware of the severe health risks associated with the product. Not knowing how toxic Paraquat was, agricultural workers did not take precautions when handling the chemical. The argument in this litigation is that Paraquat manufacturers should have known about the dangers of the chemical and warned users of the health consequences of exposure to the product. The petitioners also claim that the manufacturers were negligent in their marketing.

Were You or Your Loved One Exposed to Paraquat?

If you or your loved one are suffering side effects related to Paraquat exposure, including Parkinson’s Disease, you may be eligible to file a Paraquat lawsuit. The side effects of this product, including Parkinson’s Disease, are debilitating. Paraquat lawsuits allow people to recover compensation for financial and non-economic losses that people suffer, including:

  • Past and future medical treatments;
  • Past and future lost wages;
  • Pain and suffering; and
  • Loss of quality of life.

Compensation amounts depend on the facts of each individual case and the jury.

Eligible parties for these lawsuits are farmworkers, herbicide applicators, tank transporters, gardeners and groundskeepers, and families in the farming communities. According to the Paraquat lawsuits, the manufacturers knew about the chemical’s dangers and still continued to make and sell it without proper labeling or warnings. These companies need to be accountable to Paraquat’s victims for their negligence and reckless disregard for human life.

It is essential to file your lawsuit as soon as possible, as there are time constraints on the time available to do so. Besides the deadline to file the complaint, these lawsuits require in-depth investigations and fact-gathering before they are ready for court. However, the most important thing is to have a qualified Paraquat attorney by your side to guide you through the litigation process. The defendants are big companies and corporations, and their legal teams will be top-notch. You need someone that can stand up to them while protecting your rights.

Contact D’Amore Law Group

The D’Amore Law Group will stand by your side and be your guide through the legal process. We are leaders in the trial lawyer community. Our practice focuses on representing clients and their families that suffered serious injury or death because of someone’s negligence or wrongful conduct. We are experts in personal injury and products liability cases, as well as litigation for many other types of conduct and accidents. Please visit our practice area page for more information about the types of matters we handle. And if you or your loved one were affected by Paraquat exposure, please contact us today to discuss your situation.

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