Numerous studies have linked a commercial weed killer manufactured by Syngenta Group to Parkinson’s disease. The product is known as paraquat and also by the brand name Gramoxone. Those at risk of paraquat’s adverse effects include farmers and even bystanders who had never used the product but were exposed to spray drifts living on or near a farm.
Law firms have been working with victims adversely affected by paraquat by helping them file lawsuits against the toxic herbicide manufacturers. An experienced and dedicated Dallas-based mass tort law firm has successfully filed lawsuits against Syngenta in U.S. District Courts in California and Illinois. The lawsuits were filed on behalf of two plaintiffs claiming that paraquat exposure caused them to develop Parkinson’s disease.
The two cases are listed here:
- Paul Rakoczy v. Syngenta Crop Protection et al., Case No. 4:21-CV-02083
- Michael Joseph Kearns et al. v. Syngenta Crop Protection et al., Case No. 3:21-CV-00278
What is Paraquat?
Paraquat is one of the most widely used herbicides in the United States. It is a highly toxic chemical commonly used in agricultural and commercial settings to control weeds and grass. The product is classified as a “restricted use pesticide” by the FDA, which means that only a licensed applicator can use it.
In 1997, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that occupational exposure is the primary way people have come into contact with paraquat. Agricultural-related occupations are the primary groups at risk.
Despite the harmful effects of paraquat, the United States’ use of the herbicide has significantly increased since it was first introduced for commercial use in the 1960s. Farmers in the United States currently use over 8 million pounds of paraquat each. The increased use of paraquat has been partly associated with the glyphosate resistance many weeds have developed.
Parkinson’s Disease Linked to Paraquat
The National Institute of Health conducted a study in 2011 that included over 80,000 farmers and agricultural workers. According to the study, agricultural workers had an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease than the general population. Additional research and a DNA study further validated this link.
Many countries banned the use of paraquat upon hearing the evidence. The only people in the United States allowed to use paraquat are licensed applicators.
Those who were exposed to this toxic herbicide and may have suffered severe injuries include:
- The licensed applicators who applied the product
- Workers who entered fields after the herbicide was applied
- Bystanders exposed to any spray that drifted into the air
- Homeowners with property near fields where the herbicide was applied
Why Isn’t Paraquat Banned in the United States?
According to an article published by Environmental Health, “Paraquat and phorate are the only two pesticides still used in the USA that are banned or being phased out in the EU, China, and Brazil.” Currently, thirty-two countries have banned the use of paraquat. The herbicide was banned in the European Union in 2007.
While the EPA states that paraquat is dangerous and could be fatal when ingested, the agency found “no dietary risks of concern associated with paraquat when it is used according to the label instructions” in a 2019 draft human health risk assessment. The EPA reviewed over 70 articles covering the potential health risks of paraquat, such as Parkinson’s disease. Still, the agency determined that “there is insufficient evidence to link registered paraquat products to any of the health outcomes investigated, including Parkinson’s disease, when used according to the label.” Nevertheless, the EPA proposed additional protections in October 2020 to better protect human health and the environment and to diminish the risks associated with paraquat usage.
Lawmakers Aim to Ban Paraquat in the United States
While the EPA has taken many regulatory measures for paraquat, the growing evidence supporting the connection between the herbicide and Parkinson’s disease requires legal action. In 2019, New York Representative Nydia Velázquez introduced the Protect Against Paraquat Act which seeks to remove paraquat from the United States agricultural system.
New Mexico Senator Tom Udall and Colorado Representative Joe Neguse incorporated Velázquez’s act into a more extensive Senate reform bill. This bill aims to reduce the use of various toxic chemicals and permanently ban paraquat in the United States. Senator Udall personally understands paraquat’s health risks as he is the nephew of former congressman Morris Udall, who lived with Parkinson’s disease.
Claims Against Paraquat Manufacturers
It is the responsibility of herbicide manufacturers to provide safe products. If hazardous risks are associated with their products, they must display adequate warnings on their herbicides’ labels. If the manufacturer does not fulfill this duty of care, it could be liable for any injuries or illnesses a person sustains due to using their products.
The lawsuits filed by Fears Nachawati Law Firm claim that the makers of paraquat were negligent in its manufacturing and failed to warn the public about the herbicide’s known neurological risks. Internal documents discovered for this case revealed internal debates within Syngenta about how to make paraquat less toxic. Claims were made against paraquat manufacturer Syngenta, but Chevron USA Inc. has also been named as a defendant in the lawsuit. Below is a list of allegations against the two companies:
- Negligently designing and marketing the products
- Failing to take appropriate steps to ensure that people who used paraquat were kept safe
- Failing to inform the general public regarding the dangers the herbicide posed to anyone who may have unknowingly been exposed to it
- Lack of knowledge regarding paraquat’s toxicity
- Lack of awareness regarding long-term exposure to paraquat and its link to Parkinson’s disease
Help Paraquat Victims Fight Against Corporate Negligence
Manufacturers of herbicides and other chemicals have a responsibility to comply with federal regulations and protect citizens from the potential harm their products can cause. Countless people have been adversely affected by paraquat exposure. Whether or not the herbicide will be banned has yet to be determined. Before any decision is made, people will still be at risk of paraquat poisoning.
The new lawsuits filed by Fears Nachawati Law Firm are a testament to the importance of pursuing justice and are a significant milestone in paraquat litigation. More lawsuits are expected to follow, and many more victims will need legal representation.
- Columbia University Irving Medical Center. “Movement Disorders”, Columbia University Department of Neurology, https://www.neurology.columbia.edu/patient-care/specialties/movement-disorders. Accessed April 2, 2021.
- EPA. “EPA Proposes New Safety Measures for Paraquat”, United States Environmental Protection Agency, https://www.epa.gov/pesticides/epa-proposes-new-safety-measures-paraquat. Accessed April 2, 2021.
- EPA. “Paraquat Dichloride Training for Certified Applicators”, United States Environmental Protection Agency, https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-worker-safety/paraquat-dichloride-training-certified-applicators. Accessed April 2, 2021.
- Nathan Donley. “The USA lags behind other agricultural nations in banning harmful pesticides”, Environmental Health, https://ehjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12940-019-0488-0#citeas. Accessed April 2, 2021.
- National Water-Quality Project. “Estimated Annual Agricultural Pesticide Use”, United States Geological Survey, https://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/pnsp/usage/maps/show_map.php?year=2017&map=PARAQUAT&hilo=L. Accessed April 2, 2021.
- NIH. “NIH study finds two pesticides associated with Parkinson’s disease”, National Institute of Health, https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-study-finds-two-pesticides-associated-parkinsons-disease. Accessed April 2, 2021.
- NTP. “PROTOCOL FOR SCOPING REVIEW OF PARAQUAT DICHLORIDE EXPOSURE AND PARKINSON’S DISEASE”, National Toxicology Program, https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/ohat/parkinson/parkinsons_protocol_508.pdf. Accessed April 2, 2021.
- Reczek, C., Birsoy, K., Kong, H. et al. “A CRISPR screen identifies a pathway required for paraquat-induced cell death”, Nature Chemical Biology, https://www.nature.com/articles/nchembio.2499#citeas. Accessed April 2, 2021.