Paraquat Linked to Parkinson’s Disease

The toxic herbicide, Paraquat, has been banned by many countries around the world, but is still used in the US. If you or a loved one were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease after exposure to paraquat, you may be eligible for significant compensation. 

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What is Paraquat?

Paraquat is a toxic chemical that is widely used for weed and grass control and is manufactured and sold by the Swiss agrichemical company Syngenta and other companies. Paraquat is sold by Syngenta under the brand name Gramoxone and distributed by Chevron, Inc. 

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies paraquat as “restricted use,” which means it can only be used by licensed applicators for commercial usage. Licensed applicators of paraquat are at the most risk for exposure, but anyone who lived or worked near where paraquat was used could have been affected. 

What is a Paraquat Lawsuit?

Thousands have filed lawsuits alleging that paraquat exposure caused them to develop Parkinson’s disease. People with paraquat exposure who were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease may be eligible to file lawsuits to help cover medical expenses, lost wages, and other costs. 

The main defendants in the current cases are Syngenta and Chevron, Inc. Cases have been consolidated into a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) with the first bellwether test trial set for October 2023. 

In MDLs, civil (non-criminal) cases are transferred to one or more districts to efficiently manage many related cases filed in different jurisdictions. 

Is Paraquat Banned?

Dozens of countries around the world have banned paraquat due to its toxicity and links to health risks, including Parkinson’s disease. Since 1989, the herbicide has been banned in Switzerland, Syngenta’s home country. In 2007, paraquat was banned in the European Union after a court ruled regulators had not thoroughly assessed safety risks. Paraquat is also banned in the UK and in China, the home base of ChemChina, which purchased Syngenta in 2017. 

In October 2020, the EPA re-approved paraquat use in the United States. The Parkinson’s Foundation and the Unified Parkinson’s Advocacy Foundation signed two letters sent to the EPA, requesting that the agency cancel the re-approval based on strong scientific research linking paraquat to Parkinson’s disease. 

How Far did Syngenta Go to Protect Sales?

In October 2022, the global news organization Guardian published a review of Syngenta internal documents dating back to the 1950s. The documents were provided to plaintiff attorneys during litigation.

According to Guardian, the documents show “a corporate focus on strategies to protect produce sales, refute scientific research, and influence regulators.” According to the Guardian report, the documents also revealed:

  • In the 1960s and 1970s, scientists from Syngenta predecessor Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) and Chevron Chemical were aware of evidence that showed paraquat could accumulate in the human brain
  • Syngenta withheld its internal research from regulators and downplayed validity of external findings
  • Company scientists were aware of evidence that paraquat exposure could impair the central nervous system, including tremors and symptoms similar to those in Parkinson’s disease

Documents show that Syngenta executives expressed concerns about potential legal liability as long ago as 1975.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In people with Parkinson’s disease, the brain cells that produce dopamine, a chemical that coordinates movement, stop functioning or die. PD is a lifelong disease and symptoms worsen over time. People with Parkinson’s disease may experience:
  • Tremors
  • Slowness and paucity of movements (bradykinesia and hypokinesia)
  • Stiffness of limbs (rigidity)
  • Gait and balance issues

Non-movement symptoms can include depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, hallucinations, and cognitive impairment.

Early signs of Parkinson’s disease include tremors at rest, increasingly small handwriting, loss of smell, trouble sleeping, moving, or walking, constipation, change to soft or low voice, facial masking (constant serious, depressed, or mad expression), dizziness or fainting, and change in posture (stooping or hunching over.)

These early signs don’t necessarily indicate that you or a loved one have PD, but if you do have more than one of these symptoms, you may consider consulting a doctor. 

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