Paraquat Lawsuit & Parkinson’s Disease | Seek Recovery for Your Injuries

In recent years, scientific studies have found a link between paraquat dichloride and a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. While ingestion of this toxic chemical is widely known to be fatal, these studies suggest that repetitive exposure to commercial herbicides containing paraquat could have long-term health consequences. As a result, several countries have banned or restricted its use. 

Many people have also come forward with lawsuits against the biggest paraquat manufacturers, demanding compensation for their or their loved one’s health conditions. If you or your family member was exposed to paraquat and later received a diagnosis for Parkinson’s, kidney failure, or other illnesses, you could seek compensation through a paraquat lawsuit. Our team can connect you with legal representation. 

What is paraquat?

Paraquat dichloride is a highly toxic chemical that appears in multiple commercial herbicides. Farmers and agricultural workers most commonly use paraquat as a weed killer and desiccant to protect a variety of crops leading up to harvest season, though it is also frequently used for grass control. 

It is not to be confused with Roundup—another popular herbicide currently under legal fire—which contains the toxic chemical glyphosate. In fact, paraquat’s growing popularity is often attributed to the fact that weeds have become resistant to glyphosate products.

While many herbicide products contain paraquat as an active ingredient, the most widely known brand in the United States is Gramoxone. It’s currently produced by Syngenta, the main company now facing lawsuits for adverse health conditions allegedly connected to paraquat exposure, including Parkinson’s disease. Other brands known to contain this agrochemical include, but are not limited to:

  • Parazone
  • Helmquat 3SL
  • Firestorm
  • Quick-Quat
  • Para-Shot 3.0
  • Crisquat

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), paraquat was first introduced for herbicide use in the early 1960s, though scientists had identified the chemical long before that. Since then, it has become the most popular herbicide in the United States. 

Meanwhile, dozens of countries have banned its use in recent years, including Japan, Thailand, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, and, more broadly, the European Union. Most notably, Switzerland—where Syngenta is headquartered—also prohibits the use of paraquat products. 

Despite these bans and the rising number of legal cases related to its use, the United Kingdom and Switzerland both continue to export the chemical for sale to farmers and agricultural workers all over the world, including the United States. As reported by the BBC, the U.K. exported more than 28,185 tons of pesticides containing paraquat in 2018 alone, with 14 tons marked for U.S. sale. 

Is paraquat safe?

All parties agree that paraquat is acutely toxic to both humans and animals with improper use or ingestion. According to a toxicity summary of paraquat from the Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders (WISER), repeated skin exposure can cause skin and eye irritation. However, disagreements lie in whether use of the chemical causes long-term health issues even when proper precautions are taken. 

Defenders of paraquat argue that the most risk involves accidental or intentional ingestion. Inhalation and prolonged skin exposure to large amounts of paraquat can also lead to paraquat poisoning, which is why this chemical is under strict regulation. 

Paraquat safety in the U.S.

Due to the extreme toxicity of paraquat, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set strict safety requirements for its use. Namely, the agency has labeled paraquat a restricted use pesticide (RUP), meaning only certified applicators can use it; it is not approved for residential use. Training is necessary before one can receive certification.

In addition, there are numerous safety policies to follow during application. Herbicides containing paraquat are generally available in liquid form and sprayed on crops by aircraft. It is believed that health risks fall significantly once the application area has dried. For this reason, the EPA advises users to: 

  • Limit the number of acres sprayed per applicator per day
  • Avoid spraying when non-certified workers are present or may come into contact with the chemical before it dries
  • Wear and maintain personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent inhalation
  • Discard clothing that becomes heavily contaminated
  • Read and follow safety labels carefully
  • Avoid storing paraquat in any food or drink containers
  • Avoid using or storing the chemical near residential areas or other high-traffic locations 
  • Apply the chemical using the largest droplet setting possible for the highest level of spray control

Despite these precautions and regulations, many parties have come forward, claiming illness after being exposed to paraquat. Even those who live near farmland where paraquat herbicides are used could be at risk of adverse health effects due to spray drift

It’s also worth noting that these regulations have not always been in place. For example, the EPA only established its mandatory training requirements for paraquat herbicide use in 2016. 

Paraquat exposure in local communities

EPA safety documents have acknowledged the occurrence of spray drift during the application of paraquat products. Spray drift refers to when the wind carries herbicide droplets to areas not intended for contact. To determine the risk of spray drift occurring and spreading toxic chemicals to nearby communities, scientists regularly model aerial pesticide application.

For example, a study published in Atmospheric Environment outlines the results of one such test conducted in Washington State. The study revealed that, despite following application guidelines, spray drift carried the testing substance across a nearby residential area. 

While this study did not involve paraquat specifically, it suggests that similar scenarios are possible with any herbicide applied in this way, potentially leading to exposure in local communities.

The CDC suggests that licensed applicators are the most at-risk due to repeated proximity to the chemical. However, other parties who could suffer exposure to paraquat include:

  • Other agricultural workers and farmers
  • Those who live or work in communities close to farms that use paraquat
  • Licensed applicators’ close family members 

Aside from exposure due to aerial pesticide application, the CDC cites ingestion as the most common danger associated with paraquat. Ingestion of any amount of this chemical can lead to immediate paraquat poisoning.

What is paraquat poisoning?

Paraquat poisoning occurs from the intentional or accidental ingestion of paraquat. Unfortunately, herbicides containing this chemical have been linked to many cases of suicide and attempted suicide because of their high toxicity. Even more alarming are the numerous reports of accidental poisonings due to improper storage. 

The EPA issues strict warnings about storing any herbicides in food or beverage containers, as others may unknowingly consume the toxic chemicals. As a precaution, Paraquat manufacturers include colored dyes, sharp odors, and emetics—substances used to induce vomiting—in their formulations. 

Even so, the EPA has recorded several instances of accidental paraquat ingestion, including in more recent years. In response, the agency established new packaging requirements to further protect against poisoning in 2016. This includes a closed-packaged system to prevent:

  • Pouring the chemical into other containers
  • Spills
  • Mixing the chemical with food or beverage

Paraquat dichloride facts and figures

The EPA’s updated policies and ongoing review of paraquat use were largely in response to the alarming number of poisonings reported from accidental ingestion. Specifically, the California Poison Control System and American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) reached out to the EPA about a series of fatal paraquat poisonings in San Joaquin Valley in 2013. In letters to the EPA, these agencies cited the following statistics:

  • There were 50 deaths related to paraquat ingestion.
  • Of those deaths, 12 were traced to paraquat that was being stored in a drink container.

More broadly, studies such as this one in Yonsei Medical Journal estimate that roughly 20 deaths per million worldwide are attributed to paraquat.

Paraquat dichloride: the toxicity of a single sip

The Hazardous Substances Data Bank (HSDB) entry on paraquat reports that a lethal dose is estimated at 14mL of a 40% solution of the chemical depending on body weight. As 14mL equates to just under three teaspoons, this has led many to conclude that a single sip of paraquat is enough to cause death.

There is currently no known antidote for paraquat poisoning, according to MedlinePlus and other sources. Doctors can focus only on alleviating the symptoms and addressing any complications as they occur. 

Paraquat poisoning symptoms vary based on the type of exposure

Though a single sip of paraquat can be fatal due to the absence of an antidote, the exact symptoms experienced depend on the amount ingested. Regardless of the level of exposure, it is critical to seek medical attention as soon as possible. While the presence of the emetic should immediately induce vomiting, this can quickly lead to deadly levels of dehydration. 

Receiving rapid medical care could be life-saving. It will allow doctors to take additional steps to remove the paraquat from the victim’s system and provide IV fluids to maintain safe hydration levels. 

According to the CDC, some symptoms of paraquat poisoning are immediate, while others may develop in the hours, days, or weeks after. For example, victims typically experience painful swelling in the mouth and throat right away, followed by nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting as the emetic takes effect. Other potential symptoms for different levels of ingestion are outlined below.

Ingestion of small or medium amount

Those who consume a few drops or sips worth of paraquat dichloride could experience scarring on the lungs, as well as multiple types of organ failure, particularly involving the:

  • Kidney
  • Liver
  • Heart

Ingestion of large amount

Those who consume a larger amount of paraquat experience the symptoms outlined above at an accelerated rate. Other potential symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Muscle weakness
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Fluid in the lungs
  • Respiratory failure

Inhalation 

Inhaling toxic herbicides like paraquat can significantly damage the airways and lungs, including scarring. This may develop over a period of several weeks and can make breathing and swallowing difficult for victims. 

Excessive skin exposure

Paraquat poisoning can also occur through contact with the skin in the following situations:

  • Prolonged exposure
  • Concentrated exposure (Paraquat herbicides are typically diluted with water before application.)
  • Exposure to broken skin

Potential symptoms include:

  • Blistering or burns
  • Loss of fingernails
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Nosebleeds
  • Blindness

Note: The symptoms outlined in the sections above are not limited to paraquat poisoning—they could suggest other types of illness or poisoning. Nevertheless, you are advised to seek immediate medical attention for yourself or a loved one if there is a risk of severe dehydration or other potentially fatal conditions. 

Paraquat poisoning side effects 

While it is possible under certain circumstances to survive paraquat poisoning, victims are likely to suffer lingering and even long-term side effects. This typically includes:

  • Permanent scarring of the airways and lungs
  • Organ failure

Several studies have also indicated a connection between long-term exposure to paraquat and an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

How is paraquat linked to Parkinson’s disease?

The high toxicity and widespread use of herbicides containing paraquat have led many to question whether there are any long-term effects of exposure—particularly for agricultural workers who use the product regularly and communities in proximity. 

The emergence of multiple studies conducted on this topic in recent years has caused many to question their or their loved one’s diagnoses and deaths. This includes instances of Parkinson’s disease in individuals who suffered varying amounts of paraquat exposure. 

Studies suggest chronic paraquat exposure increases the risk of Parkinson’s disease

Many scientific studies—like this one in Environmental Health Perspectives—assert there is a connection between exposure to this chemical and the eventual diagnosis of Parkinson’s. However, the EPA has yet to take steps to ban paraquat use in response due to the currently conflicting nature of science on this subject. 

The agency reviewed the available literature and performed a draft risk assessment on paraquat in 2019. As a result of this assessment, the EPA concluded there is not a clear enough link at present between paraquat and Parkinson’s disease.

Not much is known about the overall cause of Parkinson’s disease, and issues with exposure assessment make it difficult to study the potential connection with paraquat. Still, many researchers believe the chemical’s toxic properties can create conditions for Parkinson’s in the brain.

How paraquat may create conditions for Parkinson’s disease

As Mayo Clinic explains, Parkinson’s disease is associated with nerve cell damage in the brain, specifically related to the cells that create dopamine. Such damage causes a drop in dopamine levels, leading to abnormal brain function. Associated symptoms include:

  • Tremors
  • Muscle rigidity and slowed movement, including chewing
  • Difficulty keeping balance and walking
  • Loss of unconscious, automatic movements, such as swallowing and blinking
  • Speech and cognitive impairment
  • Issues with bladder control
  • Emotional changes
  • Sleep disorders

According to the study in Environmental Health Perspectives, the reason researchers relate paraquat exposure with Parkinson’s is that its neurotoxic properties cause oxidative stress in the brain, resulting in a similar loss of dopamine-producing neurons.

Syngenta denies a connection between paraquat poisoning and Parkinson’s

According to Syngenta, 377 other companies currently sell paraquat products around the world, and more than 42 million farmers have relied on it to protect vital crops like soy and cotton. 

The agrochemical producer denies there is any link between paraquat and Parkinson’s disease and insists it has followed all laws in the countries where it manufactures and sells Gramoxone. Further, Syngenta asserts it has taken appropriate steps to minimize the risk of accidental ingestion through its use of emetics and blue dye in the herbicide.

Still, this has not stopped numerous farmers and other individuals from coming forward to sue the company. Multiple lawsuits have been initiated and are in the beginning stages as of September 2021.

Paraquat lawsuits are already underway

Several parties began filing lawsuits against paraquat manufacturer Syngenta in early 2021. This quickly escalated to a class action lawsuit in Iowa (Holliday v. Syngenta AG et al.) However, as dozens of claims began popping up in California and other states, the decision was made to file multidistrict litigation (MDL).

The MDL was filed on June 7, 2021, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. In addition to Syngenta, the MDL also names Chevron, which maintained a license to produce and sell Gramoxone for several decades.

Known as Paraquat Products Liability Litigation MDL No. 3004, the MDL initially consolidated 14 cases, with at least 77 potentially related cases. However, Bloomberg reports that as many as 400 cases have come forward this year, and many more are expected. 

The report also points out that Syngenta has already initiated steps to settle certain cases, offering $187 million. Still, a jury trial has been scheduled for November 15, 2022. 

You could qualify to join current paraquat litigation

After an MDL consolidates a number of cases, a few are chosen to represent the rest in the initial stages of litigation. These are known as bellwether cases, which serve as examples of what other claimants can expect if their lawsuits move forward. Based on the proceedings’ jury rulings in the bellwether cases, defendants may feel pressured to settle to avoid additional cases. 

MDL No. 3004 has only just gotten started—the first of the bellwether cases are not set to begin until late 2022, meaning there is still time for you to join. However, your time to sue is still subject to the statute of limitations, so it is crucial not to wait if you plan to seek damages. This filing deadline depends on the type of case you are filing and other factors, which your attorney can help you navigate as soon as you request their services.

Filing a lawsuit against paraquat manufacturers

If you or a loved one received a Parkinson’s diagnosis or experienced other negative health effects after exposure to paraquat herbicides, you have legal options. With a class action and MDL already underway, you may be able to join your case with many others who claim similar experiences. 

By filing a paraquat lawsuit, you have a chance to hold manufacturers like Syngenta responsible for the harm their products caused. You could recover compensation for various expenses and losses, as well as pain and suffering that you and your family experienced as a result of the paraquat-related diagnosis. Bringing attention to the problem could also encourage the EPA and other agencies to take further action and prevent others from suffering similar injuries or illnesses. 

In any defective product case, you could recover compensation for various damages. Some may be economic, related to the expenses and losses you suffered due to your or your loved one’s injuries. Others are meant to address non-economic damages related to the intangible harm the defective product caused. 

For example, in a paraquat lawsuit regarding a Parkinson’s diagnosis for your loved one, you could seek compensation for the following:

  • Doctor’s visits
  • Neurological examinations and brain scans
  • Medications to control Parkinson’s symptoms
  • Medical devices
  • The cost of ongoing care to handle your loved one’s daily needs
  • Pain and suffering
  • Funeral costs and related expenses if you lost your loved one due to Parkinson’s

These are just examples—the damages you qualify to recover will depend on the specifics of your case and the type of lawsuit you file. 

Hiring a paraquat lawyer

Defective products cases against major manufacturers are often overwhelming, time-consuming, and difficult to navigate. These cases grow even more complex when they involve multiple manufacturers operating on a global scale. That’s why many victims of defective products band together to form MDLs and class actions. 

They also hire attorneys familiar with handling these massive cases to represent them. You do not have to build a paraquat lawsuit and fight Syngenta and other herbicide manufacturers on your own. Our team can connect you with the right law firm for your case.

How a defective product attorney can support claim

When you hire a law firm to represent you in paraquat litigation, your paraquat lawsuit attorney will handle all legal matters for you. They will:

  • Advise you on your legal options and help you make decisions throughout the process
  • Compile the evidence available to support your claims
  • Calculate the damages your or your loved one’s paraquat-related injuries caused
  • Represent you in all case proceedings
  • Work with experts who can provide support
  • Take steps to help you join the current MDL or class action, if appropriate
  • Advocate for your financial recovery, whether through receipt of a settlement or court award

It’s worth noting that many personal injury firms offer free consultations regarding cases like these. Many defective product attorneys also work for a contingency fee, so there is no need to worry about your ability to afford legal representation. In a contingency fee arrangement, clients pay nothing unless they receive compensation, and attorney’s fees come out of whatever they recover. 

Choosing the best law firm for your paraquat case

Though there is little to no financial risk when you hire a contingency fee law firm, you still want to ensure you’re choosing a legal team you can trust. This means doing some research and asking the right questions during the initial consultation. Personal injury firms generally offer this first consultation for free for this exact reason—it gives you a chance to learn about their services and approach to cases like yours. 

Here are a few questions to consider before hiring a firm to represent you in paraquat litigation:

  • Does the firm have a positive reputation in the community? (You can use Google reviews, peer reviews, and other sources to verify this.)
  • How many defective product cases has the firm handled? 
  • Does the firm have a track record of securing settlements and court awards?
  • Will the firm handle cases that may join an MDL or class action?
  • How accessible will your attorney be if you have questions about the case?
  • What are the specifics of the firm’s fee arrangement?
  • What specific services does the firm provide?

It can take some time to find the law firm best suited for your case. However, our team is here to help.

Reach out for legal help with your paraquat lawsuit

Others have already initiated the steps for holding paraquat manufacturers like Syngenta responsible for harm they suffered. You have a chance to join them, seeking justice and compensation for your or your loved one’s diagnosis after exposure to this toxic chemical herbicide. 

Global manufacturers should not get away with creating and distributing harmful products that even preventative measures cannot protect against. Your first step toward justice could be hiring a law firm to handle the rest of the legal process for you. Our team is here to assist you.

Fill out our contact form to get help with your case or to learn more about how you can bring the the manufacturer to account.