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Paraquat Lawsuits Pending

Timely Insights on Laws, Issues and New Developements
ParaquatSeveral lawsuits are pending in the U.S. which allege that the weedkiller chemical paraquat causes Parkinson’s disease. The first case scheduled for trial over the allegations against Syngenta regarding a link between paraquat and Parkinson’s was originally slated for April 12, 2021. It was rescheduled for May 10 in St. Clair County Circuit Court in Illinois; then it was delayed until June 1; then it was called off on May 28.

According to U.S. Right to Know, the parties in that case reportedly settled the case. A notice of settlement for several paraquat cases was filed June 18, 2021.

Dozens of lawsuits are pending against Syngenta. The suits allege Syngenta’s paraquat products cause Parkinson’s Disease. The Hoffman case also names as defendants Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. and Growmark Inc. Chevron distributed and sold Gramoxone (paraquat product) in the U.S. in an agreement with a Syngenta predecessor called Imperial Chemical Industries. ICI introduced Gramoxone in 1962. Under a licensing agreement, Chevron had the right to manufacture, use, and sell paraquat formulations in the U.S.

U.S. Right to Know reports that attorneys around the country are advertising for plaintiffs who’ve been exposed to paraquat and who have subsequently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

Some of the most recently filed cases were brought in federal courts in California and Illinois. Among those cases are Rakoczy V. Syngenta, Durbin V. Syngenta and Kearns V. Syngenta.

Paraquat MDL Panel Formed

In April 2021, a law firm filed a motion with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in Washington, D.C. The motion requested that pending paraquat lawsuits be consolidated for pretrial proceedings in the Northern District of California, the same federal court where Monsanto Roundup litigation was consolidated. The case with the judicial panel is MDL No. 3004. The panel hearing on the matter occurred on May 27. On June 7, the panel approved the formation of the paraquat multidistrict litigation, which was assigned to Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel in the Southern District of Illinois.

Paraquat Class Action Suit Filed

In addition, a class action lawsuit was filed in federal court in Iowa on May 3, 2021. According to the filing, the suit seeks “equitable relief in the form of medical monitoring, including, but not limited to, the costs of diagnostic testing” for farmers and others exposed to paraquat who are allegedly at “increased risk” for Parkinson’s.

Studies link Paraquat to Parkinson’s

Several scientific studies have linked paraquat to Parkinson’s. They include a large study of U.S. farmers overseen by multiple U.S. government agencies. Farmers use paraquat in the production of many crops, including corn, soy and cotton. The Agricultural Health Study (AHS) said it found, “[E]xposure to agricultural pesticides may increase a person’s risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.” In 2011, AHS researchers reported: “[P]articipants who used paraquat or rotenone were twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease as people who didn’t use these chemicals.”

A more recent paper from AHS researchers stated that “Extensive literature suggests an association between general pesticide use and Parkinson’s disease (PD). However, with few exceptions, little is known about associations between specific pesticides and PD.”

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s is an incurable progressive nervous system disorder that limits a person’s ability to control movement, causing tremors, loss of balance and eventually often leaving victims bedridden and/or bound to a wheelchair. The disease is not necessarily fatal but typically becomes severely debilitating.

Dutch neurologist Bastiaan Bloem recently authored a book about Parkinson’s. He blames widespread exposure to herbicides such as paraquat, along with other toxic chemicals used in agriculture and manufacturing, for the spread of the disease.

Acutely Toxic

In addition to fears about links between paraquat and Parkinson’s, paraquat is also known to be an acutely toxic chemical that can kill people who ingest even small amounts of it. Paraquat has been banned In Europe since 2007, but in the U.S. it is sold as a “Restricted Use Pesticide” due to “acute toxicity.”

As part of discovery in the Parkinson’s litigation, attorneys have obtained internal records from Syngenta and its predecessor corporate entities dating back to the 1960s. Many of these documents are sealed, but some have started to see the light of day.

Those unsealed discovery documents, which include copies of letters, minutes of meetings, study summaries, and emails, are being made available by U.S. Right to Know, which reports that most of the documents unsealed to date deal with corporate discussions about how to keep paraquat herbicides on the market despite paraquat’s deadliness, through measures designed to reduce accidental poisonings.

Many of the documents specifically detail an internal corporate struggle over the addition of a vomit-inducing agent – an emetic – to paraquat products. Today, all Syngenta paraquat-containing products include an emetic called “PP796.”  Liquid paraquat-containing formulations from Syngenta also include a stenching agent that produces a foul odor to alert users to exposure, as well as a blue dye to differentiate the dark-colored herbicide from tea or cola or other beverages.

EPA Review  claims insufficient link

Paraquat is currently undergoing the EPA’s registration review process. On Oct. 23, 2020, EPA released a proposed interim decision (PID) for paraquat. It proposes mitigation measures to reduce human health and ecological risks identified in the agency’s 2019 draft human health and ecological risk assessments.

The EPA said that it completed a “thorough review” of the scientific information on paraquat and Parkinson’s through collaboration with the National Toxicology Program at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. EPA said it concluded that the weight of evidence was insufficient to link paraquat to Parkinson’s disease. The agency published this “Systematic Review of the Literature to Evaluate the Relationship between Paraquat Dichloride Exposure and Parkinson’s Disease.”


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by Matthews & Associates

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