In addition to other serious side effects, Paraquat exposure can cause liver damage and/or liver failure. Depending on the severity, Paraquat exposure can result in death.
A liquid herbicide, Paraquat dichloride (known as Paraquat) is used in agricultural settings. The herbicide is very effective in controlling weeds and grasses on fields where farmers plant crops.
However, Paraquat is also toxic and harmful to humans.
Paraquat is classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a Restricted Use Pesticide and may only be used by licensed applicators.
Paraquat exposure can happen in a variety of ways, including by swallowing (ingestion), through damaged skin, and inhalation.
The most common type of Paraquat exposure is ingestion, either accidental or purposeful. Even a small amount of Paraquat is fatal. There is currently no antidote for Paraquat poisoning.
How Does Paraquat Affect the Liver?
Poisoning from Paraquat herbicide can cause multiple organ failure and death. People exposed to Paraquat can suffer from damage to the liver or liver failure.
Paraquat transfers electrons to oxygen in a process known as oxidation and reduction, or “redox.” This process results in the disintegration of cell membranes and tissues.
The liver is an important organ in the human body. It is essential for metabolism and detoxification. As such, it is highly sensitive to oxidative damage. Therefore, Paraquat exposure can cause significant liver damage due to the redox process.
Paraquat poisoning often leads to cholestasis in the liver, a disease that occurs when bile is blocked and cannot flow from the liver. Bile aids in the digestion of food. When the flow of bile is affected, it can lead to a buildup of bilirubin, which is a yellowish pigment formed in the liver. This bilirubin buildup causes the skin and eyes to turn yellow, and is an indicator that something is wrong with the liver.
Paraquat and Liver Failure
Paraquat accumulates within the liver immediately after exposure. The redox process starts to disintegrate the mitochondria and other membranes in the liver cells.
Liver failure occurs when the liver can’t perform its many vital functions, such as producing bile to help digest food and clearing the blood of toxins.
Damage to the liver occurs in stages. Each stage progressively affects the liver’s ability to function properly. Below are the stages of liver failure:
- Inflammation: The liver becomes enlarged or inflamed.
- Fibrosis: Scar tissue starts to replace the healthy tissue in the inflamed organ.
- Cirrhosis: Scar tissue starts to build up and interfere with the liver’s functions.
- End-stage liver disease: Liver function deteriorates so much that the damage cannot be reversed without a liver transplant.
In Paraquat poisoning, acute liver failure can come on quickly and progress rapidly through these stages.
Signs and Symptoms of Liver Failure After Paraquat Exposure
Damage to the liver does not always cause noticeable symptoms. Possible signs of acute liver failure may include:
- Skin and eyes that appear yellowish (jaundice)
- Abdominal pain and swelling
- Chronic fatigue
- Nausea or vomiting
- Feeling confused or disoriented
Diagnosing Liver Failure After Paraquat Exposure
The most effective means of diagnosing liver failure is for medical professionals to perform a variety of tests, including the following:
- Liver blood tests to assess the protein and enzyme levels in your blood and determine how well or poorly your liver is functioning
- Imaging tests such as ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI to visualize your liver and determine if it is inflamed or enlarged
- Biopsy, or taking a tissue sample from your liver. This will determine if scar tissue is present in your liver, and how much damage has occurred. In the case of acute liver failure via Paraquat poisoning, however, there might not be time for such a procedure.
Prognosis After Paraquat Exposure
The ultimate damage to the exposed patient’s liver depends on the severity of exposure.
In some cases, the amount of Paraquat exposure is small. This can still damage the liver and other organs in the body, but the damage will not be as extreme.
Additionally, if the patient sought medical help quickly enough, the liver damage might not be as severe. In fact, one study found that a patient’s liver function recovered within two weeks of exposure, and the patient suffered no long-term effects on the liver.
After a large-dose exposure to Paraquat, the patient could experience acute liver failure.
However, liver damage and/or liver failure is not the usual mode of death in Paraquat poisoning, and survivors report no long-term effects on their liver function. Rather, patients exposed to Paraquat typically die from damage to the lungs as opposed to damage from other organs.
Were You Exposed to Paraquat and Suffer from Liver Damage or Liver Failure?
If you or a loved one were exposed to Paraquat herbicide and suffered liver damage or liver failure as a result, you may be entitled to compensation.
An experienced personal injury attorney can help you make a case against the manufacturers of Paraquat. The attorneys at VanDerGinst Law will fight to secure compensation for your injuries, medical bills, and pain and suffering due to Paraquat exposure.
At VanDerGinst Law, the consultation is free, and you don’t pay an attorney fee unless we win your injury case.
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