Paraquat: The Basics, the Symptoms, and the Legislation Against It
Paraquat is a chemical used extensively in the United States despite recently filed lawsuits its manufacturers face. Some experts claim exposure to paraquat increases a person’s likelihood of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
In this guide, you will discover useful background information on paraquat, including its uses, symptoms of exposure, and side effects. You will also learn what to do if you think you were exposed to paraquat. Finally, this guide will also provide information on what to do if you are considering filing a lawsuit against paraquat’s makers.
What Is Paraquat Herbicide?
Paraquat was first used in agriculture in 1961. The chemical is primarily found in weedkillers and is highly poisonous. After several health scares over the decades, paraquat use is restricted to licensed applicators. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cautions individuals to always use protection when near paraquat. Handlers must observe strict safety protocols to handle the chemical legally.
Paraquat’s makers must also include a safety additive in the herbicide. This add-on causes anyone who accidentally ingested paraquat to vomit and purge much of the chemical from their bodies. However, other countries outside of the U.S. may not have these precautions in place.
Where Paraquat Is Found and How It Is Used
While at least 32 countries have banned the use of paraquat, the United States is not one of them. It is a popular chemical for agriculture because it effectively kills weeds.
Several companies in the U.S. use paraquat in their brands. Some of these companies’ brands include:
- Cyclone SL 2.0
- Para-Shot 3.0
- Helmquat 3SL
- Bai Cao Ku
- Toxer Total
- AH 501
- Ortho Paraquat CL
If you or someone you know has used any of the above brands and are suffering from symptoms of paraquat poisoning, you may qualify for financial compensation. A paraquat lawsuit attorney can explain your legal options to you.
Although paraquat is best known as a weedkiller additive, it has been used extensively for other farming purposes, such as:
- To dry out crops before a cotton harvest
- Kill weeds or grass in fruit orchards
- Kill grass covering crops
- Dry out or remove leaves during hops harvests
- Destroy potato stems
Because of paraquat’s inherent danger, federal law states the chemical cannot be stored where children could reach it. It is also prohibited to store paraquat in a residential area.
How You Could Be Exposed to Paraquat
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there’s been no evidence that terrorists have ever used paraquat as a weapon. Paraquat poisoning is most likely to occur after being swallowed.
Paraquat is also odorless, colorless, and invisible. These qualities make it easy for people to accidentally drink the chemical. To prevent this, federal laws also mandate that blue dye be added to paraquat to help make the chemical noticeably different from other beverages.
But paraquat may also be inhaled. However, breathing in the chemical can damage your lungs. In the 1970s, the United States government provided the Mexican government with supplies of paraquat in an ill-fated attempt to poison the marijuana supplies making their way across the U.S.-Mexico border. The gambit failed, and there were cases of marijuana that contained the caustic chemical.
Finally, getting paraquat on your exposed skin can also poison you. Skin poisoning is more likely to occur if:
- The paraquat is left on the skin for a long time
- The chemical’s concentration is abnormally high
- The chemical seeps into an open sore or cut
How Paraquat Works
If you swallow large amounts of paraquat, you will probably feel intense pain very quickly. Your tongue and mouth will begin to swell. You will likely soon have other signs, including:
- Abdominal pain
- Bloody stool and/or diarrhea
- Vomiting (from the additive)
- Low blood pressure
Ultimately, you will rapidly become dehydrated because of a lack of fluids in your body. In addition, your electrolyte balance will be off because your body will not have the right amounts of sodium and potassium.
Immediate Signs and Symptoms of Paraquat Exposure
Everyone’s level of sickness from paraquat exposure will vary. How ill you become will depend on your physical condition before your exposure. How much of the chemical you were exposed to will also play a significant role in how your body responds.
Swallowing paraquat will damage your mouth’s lining. As the chemical works its way through your body, you will experience additional injury. Paraquat’s toxicity will harm your entire body, but your lungs, liver, and kidneys will bear the brunt of the chemical’s effects.
If you or a loved one suffered paraquat exposure, you will probably experience several of these symptoms:
- Mouth and throat pain and swelling
- Blood in your mouth and throat
- Trouble breathing
- Fast heart rate
- Yellow skin
If you know you will be near paraquat, take every precaution. Even a teaspoon of paraquat is enough to kill you. As time goes on, your paraquat poisoning symptoms will likely worsen.
In addition to trouble breathing, your lungs will fill with fluid. You may experience internal bleeding. The fluid buildup may result in lung scarring.
Multiple Organ Damage
Your lungs, kidneys, and liver are not the only organs that may suffer damage. Multiple organs could suffer severe damage, ultimately resulting in cardiogenic shock, when your heart can’t pump blood to every area of your body.
Symptoms and Side Effects of Exposure
If you are a farmer or if you work in a company that produces paraquat, know what to look for to keep yourself safe from the chemical.
Paraquat’s Fast-Acting Effects
Victims report feeling the effects of paraquat poisoning rapidly, sometimes mere minutes after exposure. If you feel you have been exposed to paraquat, seek emergency medical attention.
Short-Term Side Effects
Paraquat poisoning does not take long to affect you. After exposure, you may find yourself feeling confused and experiencing shortness of breath. You may also suffer from unexplained nosebleeds. Your body may go into shock or even a coma very quickly.
Long-Term Side Effects
Paraquat poisoning will likely lead to serious health consequences. According to medical experts, you may experience one or more of these additional symptoms:
- Collapsed lungs
- Blood clots
- Mouth ulcers
- Tongue ulcers
- Lung cysts
- Kidney failure
- Organ failure
- Tissue death
If you feel someone you love was exposed to paraquat, watch their reactions very carefully. Because paraquat causes confusion and other cognitive disruption, a person suffering from the effects may not realize what is happening until it is too late. The difference between life and death may fall on how quickly a victim gets medical care.
How You Can Protect Yourself and What You Should Do if You Are Exposed to Paraquat
Paraquat exposure is mostly going to happen because someone accidentally swallowed it.
If you feel you were exposed to paraquat, avoid swallowing any more of the liquid that poisoned you. Get to an emergency medical center as fast as possible. Call 911 on the way to the hospital and tell them what happened.
If you have access to activated charcoal, you may be able to bind the swallowed paraquat. Fuller’s earth clay can serve the same purpose. Ask an emergency medical technician for the best course of action.
If you spilled liquid paraquat on your clothing, undress immediately, and scrub your entire body with soap and water. Get to a hospital fast. While these steps sound simple, the tips below may prevent additional exposure.
Taking off your clothes: There is a right way and wrong way to undress after paraquat exposure. If you are wearing t-shirts, sweaters, or other clothes you would normally pull over your head, avoid rubbing the cloth near your head. Instead, use scissors to cut the clothes off your body. You want to avoid getting any paraquat near your eyes, ears, nose, or mouth.
If more than one person is involved, avoid touching each other’s clothing. Stay far apart from each other. Get rid of the clothing as fast as you can.
Clean yourself quickly and thoroughly: It is not enough to rinse yourself. Scrub yourself with large amounts of soap and water. Do this as quickly as possible. The longer paraquat is on your exposed skin, the higher the degree of damage.
If you notice you have blurry vision or a burning sensation in your eyes, use plain water to rinse your eyes. Do this continually for 10-15 minutes. If you wear contacts, dispose of them with your clothing. Dispose of disposable and permanent contact lenses, as it’s not worth the risk to save and preserve them. Eyeglasses can be worn only after you wash them completely with soap and water.
How to dispose of your clothes: Once you have washed, you need to contain your contaminated clothes. Gather your clothes and place them into a plastic bag. When you pick up your clothes, use hand protection, tongs, or sticks if you have access to any of these. Either way, do not touch the contaminated parts of your clothing. You will likely be able to spot these areas because of the blue dye.
If you used tools, gloves, or tongs to put your clothes into a bag, throw the tool into the bag, too. Once everything is in the bag, double bag it inside another plastic bag. Tell emergency personnel arriving on the scene how you disposed of your clothing. Show them the bag but do not touch it again yourself.
How Hospitals Treat Paraquat Exposure
Once you reach the hospital, the medical staff’s first goal is to try to remove the paraquat from your body. After this, they will treat your other symptoms. Some of these steps may include:
- Bind and remove the poison from your systems
While taking activated charcoal or Fuller’s earth as a pre-hospital treatment is an option, if you get to the hospital quickly after your exposure, the medical team will likely try to bind the chemical at that point.
- Treating dehydration and breathing
You will likely be hooked to an IV (intravenous) line to prevent dehydration. You’ll be given medications to raise your blood pressure and help your labored breathing. If the medications do not help your breathing, you may be placed on a ventilator.
- Treat your kidneys
Because kidney failure is one of the most prominent side effects of paraquat poisoning, you may need dialysis to help your kidneys filter your blood.
Experts Link Paraquat Poisoning to Parkinson’s Disease
The website www.Parkinsons.org is one in a long line of credible sources claiming paraquat exposure can cause a higher likelihood of Parkinson’s disease in some people. Not every person exposed to paraquat gets Parkinson’s, but some medical experts claim our society’s overexposure to herbicides, solvents, agricultural chemicals, and manufacturing chemicals will cause the rate of Parkinson’s to double in this country within the next 20 years.
Can I File a Paraquat Lawsuit?
If you have Parkinson’s disease and feel you may have been exposed to paraquat, you may qualify for financial compensation. To find out if you are eligible for damages, you can consult with a law firm that can evaluate your case. By conducting a thorough investigation into the circumstances of your case, your lawyer will help you build a foundation for your claim.
Product liability litigation can be very complicated. A product liability lawyer can ease the stress of the legal process and guide you on your next steps. Because there is no known cure for paraquat, you have the right to seek justice from the company or entity responsible for your pain and suffering. You can find out if you qualify for financial compensation for your paraquat poisoning. Fill out our contact form for your free case evaluation.