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Paraquat is a chemical agent most commonly used as a herbicide on a variety of crops throughout the United States. Studies have been conducted that linked the herbicide to a number of health issues, including Parkinson’s Disease. The first Paraquat lawsuit has been filed on behalf of farmers and agriculture workers who have been exposed to the herbicide and, as a result, developed Parkinson’s disease.
October 2017 - Paraquat lawsuit filed in St. Clair County, IL. The complaint is filed against Syngenta, Growmark, and Chevron Chemical.
Paraquat dichloride (paraquat) is a chemical agent most commonly used as an herbicide. Although it was first produced more than 130 years ago, it’s application as an herbicide did not become popularized until the mid-20th century. Paraquat is now used as an herbicide agent on a range of more than 100 different types of crops.
According to the American Council on Science and Health, paraquat’s relative toxicity of glyphosate, another popularly used herbicide known to be toxic, ranges from 33-250. A lethal dose for an average person is around 2.5 grams, and it is even more toxic when inhaled. Paraquat’s toxicity has made it a traditionally popular agent for suicide.
In February 2011, the National Institute of Health (NIH) conducted a study – the Farming and Movement Evaluation (FAME) – exploring claims that exposure to the popular herbicide paraquat could be linked to a greater risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
Following the study’s release, Syngenta, a Swiss herbicide manufacturer, claimed on its website that data from the study showed that farmers who use paraquat are less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than the general population.
This claim was highly debated by the study’s authors, who attested that the data from the study showed that individuals were roughly two and a half times more likely to develop Parkinson’s after being exposed to paraquat (or a similar herbicide – rotenone).
FAME drew data from the Agricultural Health Study, a larger project that tracked more than 80,000 farmers, agricultural workers, and their spouses. FAME researchers identified 115 individuals who had developed Parkinson’s, studying 110 of these individuals who were open to providing information on the herbicide that they frequently used.
Syngenta held the findings in contention, arguing that because only 115 individuals developed Parkinson’s out of more than 80,000 North Carolinians and Iowans included in the Agricultural Health Study, direct correlation between paraquat and an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s could not be proven. “the incidence of Parkinson’s disease [in the study] appears to be lower than in the general U.S. population,” explained Syngenta, trying to rationalize their website’s claim.
Dr. Caroline M. Tanner, the director of the Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education and Clinical Centers at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and the lead author of the FAME study explained that Syngenta’s argument held no basis because FAME was not a comprehensive assessment of the incident Parkinson’s among all 80,000. Rather, the study chose a group of people who did have Parkinson’s – studying that specific group against a control group.
In actuality, FAME relied on self-reporting from participants of the larger Agricultural Health Study. “There were probably quite a few people with Parkinson’s disease who didn’t enroll in our study,” explained Dr. Freya Kamel, a scientist at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a branch of the National Institutes of Health and a co-author of the FAME study.
Syngenta said it “went to significant lengths to attempt to access the data” from the FAME study so that the manufacturer could “gain as complete an understanding as possible of the study in the pursuit of scientific rigor.” Kamel called Syngenta’s analysis inappropriate.
Kamel found the FAME study data linking paraquat to Parkinson’s “about as persuasive as these things can get.”
A similar study conducted in 2012 – the Genetic Modification of the Association of Paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease – found that individuals who used paraquat, and who also had a specific genetic variation, were 11 times more likely to develop Parkinson’s, indicating that some people are put at greater risk by being exposed to the chemical.
Although paraquat is produced by Swiss manufacturer Syngenta, use of the herbicide has been banned in Switzerland since 1989.
One of Syngenta’s largest paraquat manufacturing facilities is located in Northern England, but most of the yield is sent to the United States – paraquat has been on the banned substances list in England and throughout the European Union since 2013.
China also produces paraquat. Although it is known for being an industrial nation with lax environmental regulations, China announced in 2012 that it would begin to phase out paraquat to “safeguard people’s lives”. All production is now exported.
Many nations are now venturing away from the herbicide, citing research that links the chemical to health risks.
But in the US, in recent years, paraquat has become a popular alternative to Monsanto’s Roundup. Roundup has long been the preferred herbicidal agent for American agricultural workers, but as weeds and pests are becoming more resistant to it, farmers are turning to alternative herbicides and pesticides to treat their crops.
Paraquat has become the preferred herbicidal alternative, especially for soybean fields, where the number of pounds used is up fourfold over the last 10 years. In 2016 alone, the United States sprayed 7 million lbs. of paraquat over nearly 15 million acres of land.
In March 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in a regulatory filing that they would be further exploring the possible health risks associated with paraquat.
In the announcement, the agency said, “there is a large body of epidemiology data on paraquat dichloride use and Parkinson’s disease.” The EPA plans to decide whether to place paraquat on the banned substance or continue to allow the chemical to be sprayed on US cropland, but a final decision is not expected until next year at earliest.
A December 2016 study published in Nature Chemical Biology reassures researchers who believe paraquat to cause Parkinson’s. A CRISPR screen, an investigation into the possible agents that increase the risk of Parkinson’s for individuals exposed to paraquat, identified a pathway required for paraquat-induced cell death in humans. The study found that after being exposed to paraquat, genes that may lead to Parkinson’s disease were identified using an innovate gene-editing technique. Further, the study found that paraquat kills cells through a mechanism called oxidative stress. The study was unable to reveal the exact process that allowed the herbicide to do so, though the researchers presented multiple theories.
There is currently a paraquat lawsuit filed in St. Clair County, IL. The paraquat lawsuit, which was filed on Oct. 6, 2017, is filed on behalf of farmers and agricultural workers who were exposed to paraquat and, as a result, developed Parkinson’s disease. The original defendants named in the paraquat lawsuit were Syngenta and Growmark.
Plaintiffs in the paraquat lawsuit claim that Syngenta and Growmark manufactured paraquat, distributed and sold it as Gramoxone or by other names since 1964.
In an amended complaint, plaintiffs also named Chevron Chemical as a defendant, claiming that Chevron acted in concert with Syngenta and Growmark.
Plaintiffs argue that, before the recent studies linking paraquat to Parkinson’s, they were completely unaware that the chemical posed any long-term health risks.
If you have previously been exposed to paraquat — or similar herbicide rotenone — and subsequently developed Parkinson’s disease or signs of ongoing developing Parkinson’s, you may qualify to participate in the paraquat lawsuit.
Contact the offices of TorHoerman Law today for a free no-obligations paraquat lawsuit case consultation. Our experienced chemical exposure law team can help you assess your case and your best plan of action.
December 2016 - CRISPR screen study is published in Nature Chemical Biology. Screen finds that after being exposed to Paraquat, genes that may lead to Parkinson's disease were identified using an innovate gene-editing technique.
Further, the study finds that Paraquat kills cells through a mechanism called oxidative stress. The study is unable to reveal the exact process that allows the herbicide to do so, though the researchers presented multiple theories.
March 2016 - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announces in a regulatory filing that they would be further exploring the possible health risks associated with Paraquat.
October 2012 - The Genetic Modification of the Association of Paraquat and Parkinson's Disease finds that individuals who used Paraquat, and who also had a specific genetic variation, were 11 times more likely to develop Parkinson's, indicating that some people are put at greater risk by being exposed to the chemical.
February 2011 - The National Institute of Health (NIH) conducts the Farming and Movement Evaluation (FAME) study. Researchers find that individuals were roughly two and a half times more likely to develop Parkinson's after being exposed to Paraquat (or a similar herbicide - rotenone).
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