Debates still exist about whether paraquat is a direct cause of Parkinson’s. However, a growing body of research shows a link between exposure to herbicides, such as paraquat, and Parkinson’s disease, making the concern impossible to ignore. In fact, more than 30 countries around the world have banned the use of paraquat, including countries that make up the European Union and China. Although lawmakers have introduced legislation to ban paraquat in the United States, manufacturers can still use the chemical in pesticides. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warn of its dangers.
If you or a loved one were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease after prolonged exposure to paraquat in your personal life or line of work, you could recover compensation. You might be able to join an existing class-action lawsuit or pursue an individual claim against a paraquat manufacturer. You can meet with a personal injury attorney about your toxic exposure and determine the right legal path for your situation.
Until you have the chance to meet with a Paraquat claim lawyer, the following overview provides preliminary information about paraquat, Parkinson’s disease, the link between the two, and things you should know if you plan on filing a paraquat lawsuit.
The History and Use of Paraquat
Paraquat is a toxic chemical compound used as a herbicide to control weeds and grasses. Although the compound was recognized earlier, a British chemical company, Imperial Chemical Industries first produced paraquat for commercial purposes in 1962 under the brand name Gramoxone. Herbicides like paraquat allowed people to control weeds and produce greater crop yields. Throughout the decades, paraquat gained popularity and remains one of the most widely used herbicides throughout the United States and the world.
Other trade names that contain paraquat include:
- Firestorm Parzone
Not only does the United States use paraquat in agriculture, but use has drastically increased over the last two decades. Glyphosate, also known as Roundup, was the go-to herbicide to eliminate weeds for farmers, gardeners, and even the average person who wants a weed-free lawn. However, Roundup was found to be linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer that is often terminal. Additionally, the manufacturer of Roundup has faced numerous lawsuits.
As the link between Roundup and cancer became more prevalent, farmers and the agricultural industry as a whole turned to other solutions to control weeds. In large part, this led to the increase in paraquat use. However, paraquat users traded one disease for another.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is aware of the dangers of paraquat. The EPA classifies it as a restricted-use substance—meaning only people who are licensed applicators may do so—due to its toxicity. In fact, paraquat sold in the United States contains blue dye, so people don’t accidentally mix it up with coffee or other beverages. U.S. versions of paraquat also contain sharp odors and additional chemicals to induce vomiting if someone ingests it.
How Exposure to Paraquat Occurs
People can be exposed to paraquat in several ways. However, the CDC warns that the most common exposure comes from ingestion. People who eat food, drink water, or consume other beverages contaminated with paraquat might not realize they are consuming the toxic substance if they are exposed to a form without the blue dye. Those who inhale paraquat also face exposure. This isn’t as common but has occurred for cannabis users. In recent decades, marijuana growers have used paraquat, putting those who smoke in danger of exposure. Finally, contact with the skin also leads to exposure, especially if contact lasts for a long time, involves a high concentration of paraquat, or enters the body through a wound, rash, or cut. For example, workers who get paraquat on their clothing can transfer it to furniture in their homes, putting the entire household at risk for exposure.
Who Faces the Greatest Risk of Paraquat Exposure?
Fortunately, paraquat is not available to the everyday person in the U.S., and the blue dye protects from random consumers accidentally consuming it. However, those who work around the toxic chemical regularly face the risk of exposure and developing Parkinson’s disease. Agricultural workers are particularly at risk of exposure to paraquat, such as farmers, pickers, inspection workers. Licensed paraquat applicators face the most risk for exposure.
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What Is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease that primarily impacts neurons that produce dopamine in an area of the brain referred to as the substantia nigra. Most people who have Parkinson’s develop symptoms over several years. However, the disease progresses at different rates in different people.
Common symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease include:
- Tremors. Many suffer from tremors while they are not moving, especially in the hands.
- Bradykinesia. This refers to the slowness of movement that most Parkinson’s patients face.
- Stiffness. People who have Parkinson’s disease typically suffer from rigid, inflexible limbs that severely limit mobility.
- Balance issues. Parkinson’s also creates struggles with balance and gait for those who suffer from the disorder.
Those who develop Parkinson’s often face an impact on their cognitive functions, behavior, and other non-motor functions. For example, some struggle with depression, sleep issues, challenges with senses, and apathy.
How Is Paraquat Linked to Parkinson’s Disease?
Over the last several decades, scientists have dedicated substantial time and resources to study the link between paraquat and Parkinson’s disease. One recent study, published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2011, provided results from a collaboration between the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the Parkinson’s Institute and Clinical Center in Sunnyvale, California. Researchers found that people who used two specific pesticides, one of which was paraquat, were 2.5 times more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than those who did not use the pesticides.
In 2012, the National Institute of Health (NIH) published another study highlighting the link between Parkinson’s and paraquat. A later study in 2016, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, took a closer look at the environmental factors that lead to the same type of dysfunction in brain cells that lead to Parkinson’s. Researchers found that pathological agents like paraquat can impact the nervous system via the nose or the stomach and cause cellular damage.
Finally, a study published in Toxicological Sciences in December 2020 strengthened the link between paraquat inhalation exposure and Parkinson’s disease. Researchers found that exposure to paraquat caused male mice to lose their sense of smell, suggesting that paraquat enters the brain through the nasal cavity when inhaled. Other studies involving mice have also shown that paraquat can kill neurons in the brain that produce dopamine. The loss of these neurons is a key feature of Parkinson’s disease as it progresses in the human body.
Researchers continue to study the specific mechanisms that link paraquat to Parkinson’s disease. However, enough evidence exists to have reasonable suspicion that paraquat causes Parkinson’s and to continue fighting to ban paraquat in the United States.
Efforts to Ban Paraquat in the United States
In July 2019, Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez of New York introduced the Protect Against Paraquat Act of 2019 (HR3817) to end the use of paraquat in the United States. As of July 2021, the bill has not yet passed in the House of Representatives. It has only been passed between a few committees and subcommittees. However, this is not unexpected. Introducing a bill in Congress is often the first step to educating Representatives and Senators about a particular issue and why legislation needs to change.
Additionally, the EPA reviews all herbicides every 15 years to make sure manufacturers comply with federal safety standards. The EPA began reviewing paraquat in 2017 and was supposed to make a final decision about future use by October 2022. In October 2020, the EPA approved the continued use of paraquat as a restricted-use substance. Activists have submitted petitions to the EPA regarding the use of paraquat to show EPA and Congress that wide support exists for the ban of the herbicide. The fight to ban paraquat continues in the U.S. even though manufacturers remain aware of the dangers.
Information About Paraquat Lawsuits
Even though paraquat manufacturers deny the link between the toxic chemical and Parkinson’s disease, agricultural workers and others exposed to the chemical have been developing Parkinson’s at an alarming rate. In fact, at least three manufacturers have been sued in class action lawsuits in recent years.
If you or your loved one has developed Parkinson’s due to exposure to paraquat, you could be eligible for compensation. You have the right to take legal action against the manufacturer and possibly others, depending on your circumstances. However, taking legal action might seem scary if you are uncertain about the process. Here is some preliminary information about paraquat lawsuits, so you have an understanding of what’s to come if you choose to seek compensation.
Consulting an Experienced Attorney
The first things you should do are to seek a doctor and an experienced paraquat lawsuit attorney. Manufacturers have large, intimidating legal teams to fight lawsuits. Even though they have the money to pay claims, they will fight to avoid financial liability. An experienced paraquat lawsuit attorney knows how to communicate and negotiate with large companies and their insurers. They fight for their clients and are not intimidated by corporate tactics.
To prevail in a paraquat lawsuit, you must prove that your exposure to the toxic substance caused you to develop Parkinson’s disease. This can be a challenging endeavor, but experienced paraquat lawsuit attorneys know the research and understand what they need to do to prove the causal connection.
Deadlines Associated With Paraquat Lawsuits
Each state has a different statute of limitations to bring a paraquat lawsuit. If you fail to file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations, you are unlikely to be able to recover any compensation, no matter how strong your case is. And bringing a paraquat lawsuit is not the kind of thing you do at the last minute.
A good paraquat lawsuit attorney needs as much time in advance of filing as possible to build the foundation of their client’s case. Proving that paraquat led to your Parkinson’s disease requires lengthy investigations, medical documentation, lab tests, expert analysis, expert testimony, and more.
It is best to contact a lawyer as soon as possible after your Parkinson’s diagnosis. The sooner they can begin working on your case, conducting an investigation, and building the link between your exposure to paraquat and your Parkinson’s disease, the better chance you have of receiving compensation.
Damages in Paraquat Lawsuits
If you prevail in your paraquat lawsuit, you could receive compensation for various damages (a legal term for compensation) related to your development of Parkinson’s disease.
Examples of common damages that Parkinson’s patients receive money for include:
- Medical expenses, including hospitalization, diagnostic imaging, lab tests, prescriptions, and other treatments
- Physical therapy, to help Parkinson’s patients cope with rigid limbs and other loss of motor functions
- Long-term nursing care, when Parkinson’s progresses to the level that requires 24/7 care at home or in a long-term nursing care facility
- Lost wages and lost earning capacity, when Parkinson’s symptoms prevent returning to work or seeking future employment.
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Reduced quality of life
Costs to Seek Compensation for Damages
Some victims of paraquat and other toxic substance exposures do not seek legal help because they worry about the cost of hiring an attorney. However, most paraquat lawsuit attorneys provide a fee arrangement, called a contingency fee so that victims can afford an attorney.
With a contingency-fee arrangement, you do not have to pay legal fees upfront to get the skilled legal help you need to sue a paraquat manufacturer. Instead, your lawyer will deduct legal fees only if and when they secure compensation for you in the form of a settlement or court award. With this arrangement, paraquat victims can have access to justice regardless of their financial circumstances.