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Paraquat linked to Parkinson’s Disease

Paraquat was linked to Parkinson’s disease in a study released in 2011. The Farming and Movement Evaluation (FAME) study* examined the relationship between Parkinson’s disease and exposure to pesticides toxic to nerve tissue.  FAME found that Paraquat users developed Parkinson’s roughly 2.5 times more often than non-users.

What is Paraquat?

Paraquat is a chemical agent used primarily as an herbicide in no-till farming. It is most commonly used as a spray. Paraquat is a less labor-intensive alternative to discing/standard tilling farming. Paraquat has also been sold under the trade names Gramoxone, Firestorm, Helmquat, and Parazone.

The CDC’s Paraquat Warning

The Centers for Disease Control warns that Paraquat can breach the human body through absorption or penetration of the skin, as well as through mucous membranes, airways, cuts, abrasions, or breathing or digestion via the mouth, nose, or airways.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the central nervous system.  It affects movement, often in the form of tremors, stiffness, or loss of balance. Early signs of Parkinson’s may include small tremors, increasingly smaller handwriting, and sleep problems. Parkinson’s disease is incurable. Its exact cause is unknown, but research points to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

*The FAME Study

FAME was part of a larger Agricultural Health study that followed more than 80,000 licensed pesticide applicators and their spouses. The authors followed 110 people with Parkinson’s and 358 matched controls. The study was considered influential even among those skeptical of the Paraquat-Parkinson’s connection.

On May 23, 2018, a University of Guelph professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, published another relevant study. Prof. Scott Ryan determined that low-level exposure to pesticides like Paraquat disrupts cells in a way that mimics the effects of mutations known to cause Parkinson’s.

Prof. Ryan said: “People exposed to these chemicals are at about a 250% higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease than the rest of the population.” The professor believes safety standards need updating to protect those more likely to develop Parkinson’s after pesticide exposure, people who may not even know they’ve been exposed.

Paraquat History

Paraquat was first introduced commercially in 1961. It is still used by many American farmers farmers several times a year to control weeds in fields with multiple crops.

Crops sprayed with Paraquat include orchard crops, row crops, fruits, and vegetables.

Paraquat and Roundup

Paraquat is registered only for industrial and commercial settings. It is not registered for any residential use. Paraquat use grew in the last several years in a symbiotic relationship with Monsanto’s Roundup, the world’s most popular herbicide/pesticide.

Because more and more weeds became resistant to Roundup, more and more Paraquat was sprayed by farmers in addition to, or in place of, Roundup.

Despite its long-known dangers, Paraquat is still being marketed as an alternative to Roundup. The New York Times reports more than seven million pounds of Paraquat being sprayed on nearly 15 million acres annually.

Paraquat Dangers well Known

As with Roundup, Paraquat dangers are well known in the scientific literature. A dose of just 2.5 grams is lethal.  Consequently, it has been the cause of numerous deaths by suicide and also by accident. In addition to its immediate deadly effects, the lasting effects of Paraquat exposure may pose an even more sinister threat to farmers, pesticide applicators, tank fillers/mixers, and people living in and around farming communities.

Some Paraquat Safety Studies:

  • According to a 2009 article by the American Journal of Epidemiology (Costello, et al.), any exposure to Paraquat within just 1,600 feet of a home increases the risk of Parkinson’s by 75 percent.
  • A 2011 study by the National Institute of Health (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23713084/) found that people exposed to Paraquat are some 2.5 times, or 250 percent more likely to develop Parkinson’s.
  • A study of human cells (Pezzoli 2013) demonstrated that low-level exposures to Paraquat causes cellular changes that mimic the effects of Parkinson’s.
  • In 2014, the Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology (Goldman reported that people who applied Paraquat were two times (2x) more likely to develop Parkinson’s than the general population.

Is EPA MIA on Paraquat?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said in 2016: “There is a large body of epidemiology data on paraquat dichloride use and Parkinson’s disease.” The EPA is supposed to announce in 2021 whether or not to continue allowing Paraquat to be sprayed on crops throughout the U.S. On Oct. 23, 2020, EPA refused to ban Paraquat in the U.S.

The EPA has, however, recently introduced policies to protect farmers working with Paraquat. These include restricting its use only to certified people who are now required to participate in additional training.

We ask whether the EPA is MIA on Paraquat because we know its lethal dangers, and several other countries have banned its use altogether. Paraquat pesticide is already banned in many countries, including Europe (the EU), Brazil, and Switzerland. Even China has been phasing out Paraquat since 2012.  We hope the U.S. will soon follow.

Paraquat Pesticide Attorney

Our law firm is investigating potential Paraquat pesticide lawsuits.  Anyone who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease after Paraquat exposure may be entitled to recover money for pain and suffering, medical expenses, and lost wages.

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