Paraquat Poisoning: An Overview of the Current Status

Paraquat Poisoning: An Overview of the Current Status

If you were exposed to paraquat dichloride and suffered adverse health effects, you may have a case against the manufacturer or another liable party. Paraquat poisoning can cause serious and lasting injuries, up to and including death. There may also be a link between exposure to the herbicide and the risk of Parkinson’s Disease.

You can read on to learn more about the current status of civil cases related to paraquat poisoning and what you can do if you or a loved one experienced any of the qualifying health concerns.

Paraquat Poisoning: An Overview of the Current Status

  • Paraquat is one of the most commonly used herbicides in the United States. It is widely used for many agricultural purposes, including on farms where weeds and grass can cause issues with the growth of crops, such as: Soybeans
  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Cotton
  • Peanuts and almonds
  • Artichokes
  • Fruits including strawberries and citrus 
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Grapes

Paraquat is highly toxic when swallowed or absorbed through the skin. People and animals have died from exposure to this herbicide. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the herbicide is classified as a restricted-use pesticide (RUP), and workers must obtain certification before use. This is because ingestion of even a small amount can lead to very serious health consequences.

Paraquat: Filing a Lawsuit

When an agricultural worker suffers paraquat poisoning or has ongoing exposure over a long period, they may be at an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease or have other lasting concerns. If this occurs, they may be able to file a lawsuit against the product manufacturer to seek damages such as:

  • The cost of their current and future medical needs
  • Lost wages and reduced earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages, if the jury determines this is appropriate

There are already dozens of paraquat lawsuits pending across the country. If you have questions or believe you may have a case, you can discuss your options with a paraquat poisoning lawyer. Many offer free case assessments. 

What Is the Status of the Paraquat Lawsuits?

In June 2021, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation centralized the lawsuits against paraquat manufacturers into multidistrict litigation (MDL). This case is now known as MDL 3004, Paraquat Products Liability Litigation. It is under the direction of the Honorable Nancy J. Rosenstengel in the Southern District of Illinois.

According to a December 15, 2021, report from the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML), there were almost 500 cases currently in the MDL. This number is rising rapidly-more than doubling since August. This litigation is in the earliest stages, so the time to act is now if you believe you may have a case.

In an MDL, each case remains independent, but the plaintiffs work together for pretrial motions, discovery, and the initial bellwether trials. This allows them to establish the facts of the case and determine the strength of their argument before each suit returns to its original jurisdiction. 

Paraquat Poisoning: Clinical Features and Immediate General Management

When a person is exposed to paraquat, they may develop symptoms immediately. The severity of their symptoms may vary based on:

  • How much exposure they endured
  • How long the exposure lasted
  • The method of exposure (i.e., swallowing, inhaling, or skin exposure)
  • Their overall health 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ingesting paraquat can cause almost instantaneous swelling of the mouth, tongue, and throat, as well as pain. This can make it difficult or impossible to rinse out their mouth or drink liquids. Digestive symptoms will likely follow, including nausea, vomiting, cramping, and diarrhea. 

If someone has known exposure to paraquat, they should see a doctor as soon as possible and report that they ingested the herbicide. The symptoms can cause difficulty breathing, dehydration, low blood pressure, and other serious concerns within a short period. More serious long-term problems can occur as well. 

Paraquat Poisoning: Survival After Oral Ingestion

Anyone who ingested paraquat may be hospitalized so a physician can ensure they get the necessary fluids and electrolytes, monitor their blood pressure, and observe them for further issues. Organ failure may follow the initial symptoms of paraquat exposure-this could be days or even weeks after the initial exposure. 

Paraquat ingestion may cause one or more of the body’s major organs to fail. This could include the heart, kidneys, liver, or respiratory system. According to Drug Safety, when at least 50 mg/kg is ingested orally, death generally occurs within 48 hours. 

Deaths from paraquat ingestion may occur as a result of unmanageable pulmonary edema. When there is excess fluid in the lungs and the doctors cannot control it, the patient cannot breathe. Even when a patient survives, they may have lasting damage. This could include:

  • Lung damage and scarring
  • Kidney damage
  • Heart failure
  • Damage to the throat or esophagus

There is some research that indicates these adverse outcomes can also occur when a person is exposed to small amounts of paraquat over time. More recently, the herbicide has also been linked to an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease.

Case Presentation of Paraquat Poisoning

Most people who experience paraquat poisoning are licensed applicators, growers, pickers, or other agricultural workers, or they work in plants that produce the herbicide. This is because paraquat use is limited by strict rules in the United States. 

The United States also requires manufacturers to add blue dye, strong-smelling additives, and emetic agents, according to the CDC. However, there are reports of others who accidentally or purposefully ingest the poison. 

According to a case report published in the Journal of Family and Community Medicine in 2013, one hospital patient consumed the herbicide as an attempt to end her life. In the 12 days preceding her death, she exhibited a range of symptoms and emerging health concerns as a consequence of ingesting the herbicide.

Initial Treatment

Initially, she presented with swelling and reduced range of motion in her mouth, in addition to decreased urine output. This was treated with intravenous fluids, antiemetics, and H2 blockers before being transferred to a larger medical facility.

Continued Care

After 24 hours, she remained conscious and oriented but had neck edema and injuries in her mouth, on her tongue, and around her lips. She also experienced difficulty breathing and was intubated. 

Intensive Care And Death

In the ICU, she received two sessions of dialysis. There were signs of pneumonia in her left lower lung and bilateral changes to her kidneys seen through medical imaging. There were also corrosive injuries to her esophagus and stomach. Treatments included:

  • Intravenous methylprednisolone
  • Saline
  • Cyclophosphamide
  • Dexamethasone
  • N-acetylcysteine
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E

However, she did not respond to any of the treatments. Her respirations continued to worsen, and she passed away from septicemia and respiratory failure.

Prevention of Absorption

The best way to prevent paraquat poisoning seems to be to avoid ingestion or other exposure to begin with. Following all directions, always handling the herbicide with caution, and wearing the proper protection during application should all be standard practice. In addition, only certified and licensed professionals should work with paraquat. It should be stored in a secure, safe place where others cannot access it. 

Once someone ingests paraquat, there are a number of things the doctors can try to prevent absorption. However, there is no way to ensure they will be effective, and some patients do not respond to these efforts. 

Gastrointestinal Evacuation

Gastrointestinal evacuation, also known as gastric lavage, uses a nasogastric tube to administer small amounts of a liquid and then suction it out with the hopes of effectively washing the stomach and upper GI tract. This is sometimes effective in removing toxic poisons from the stomach.

Oral Administration of Absorbent Substances

Gastric lavage may be used on its own or in conjunction with absorbent substances, such as activated charcoal and sorbitol. Often, these substances will absorb the poison before it can be absorbed by the body and cause harm.  


Because most paraquat in the United States already contains emetics, they are rarely used in the treatment of this type of poisoning. However, they may help the person by preventing their body from absorbing all of the herbicide.

Treatment of Paraquat Poisoning

The treatment of paraquat poisoning often relies on treating symptoms as they arise. Initially, the doctors should attempt to prevent as much of the paraquat from being absorbed by the body as possible. This is when they may use gastric lavage and activated charcoal. They will likely also administer intravenous fluids and electrolytes to prevent dehydration. At this point, there are two options: 

Removal of Paraquat From the Bloodstream

There is a treatment option that can help remove paraquat from the blood and possibly reduce the risk of organ failure and death. This is known as Continuous Venovenous Hemofiltration (CVVH). This is a type of dialysis that utilizes a hemoperfusion charcoal filter. 

It is most commonly used in patients with acute renal failure who are too unstable for hemodialysis. However, it can also help doctors filter the blood of patients following paraquat exposure. 

They place a dialysis catheter in a main vein of the body and filter the body’s blood 24 hours a day for as long as the doctor believes treatment is necessary. 

Alternative Therapies

While there is no strong medical evidence to support their use, many believe that prescribing immunosuppressant and antioxidant therapies can help patients with paraquat poisoning recover. This could include: 

  • Cyclophosphamide
  • Methylprednisolone
  • Dexamethasone
  • ​​Vitamin C
  • Acetylcysteine
  • Deferoxamine

From there, the job is to monitor, identify, and address their needs as they arise. This can vary from patient to patient but often includes: 

  • Medication to help stabilize their blood pressure and heart rate
  • Continued monitoring of their hydration and electrolyte levels
  • Management of corrosive injuries in the mouth, throat, esophagus, and stomach
  • Treatment for acute renal failure, liver injury, or respiratory concerns that occur

Those fighting to survive after consuming paraquat are usually most at risk because of damage to the pulmonary system. Most with high enough exposure rates begin to experience pulmonary fibrosis within hours or days, leading to respiratory failure. It may be impossible to maintain adequate blood oxygenation despite supplemental oxygen or even ventilation.

Paraquat and Chronic Exposure Concerns

While paraquat poisoning primarily relates to the acute illness that occurs when one ingests the toxic herbicide, there are other concerns that you should be aware of if you use this chemical or suffer other exposure. In addition to acute toxicity, chronic exposure can also lead to various health concerns. For example, inhaling paraquat can lead to scarring of the lungs, known as pulmonary fibrosis. Exposure can also damage other major organs, including the kidneys and liver.

However, the most recent concern about paraquat is its potential to significantly increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Evidence to support this includes: 

  • A 2011 study in Environmental Health Perspectives showing that those with exposure to paraquat and herbicide rotenone were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 2.5 times more than those who were not
  • A 2009 study from The American Journal of Epidemiology that found a 75 percent increased risk of Parkinson’s disease in those exposed to paraquat and another herbicide, maneb

It is this link to Parkinson’s disease that is behind the current ongoing litigation with paraquat manufacturers. In 2021, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated this litigation into MDL 3004. This case is currently underway in the Southern District of Illinois. It is still possible to join if you meet the qualifications. 

Most paraquat lawsuit attorneys are offering free consultations and managing these cases based on contingency fees. You can speak with a lawyer who is knowledgeable about these cases for free today. This will allow you to:

  • Understand if you meet the criteria
  • Learn more about these lawsuits and this process
  • Find out if there may be a link between your exposure and your condition
  • Get started building your case for compensation 

Speak With an Attorney Familiar With the Paraquat Lawsuits

Get a free initial consultation with a lawyer today. You can speak with a compassionate, understanding mass tort lawsuit attorney who can help you understand your rights today. If you live with Parkinson’s disease or other adverse health effects because of paraquat, you may be able to hold the manufacturers responsible. Fill out our contact form to learn more.