What is Paraquat?
Paraquat Dichloride, commonly referred to as “paraquat,” is a widely used herbicide in the United States.
According to the CDC, paraquat is a toxic chemical that is available as a liquid and is used primarily for weed and grass control in many agricultural and non-agricultural settings. It is also used for the desiccation of crops prior to harvest.
History of Paraquat Use
Paraquat was first synthesized in 1882 and was recognized as an effective herbicide in 1955.
Imperial Chemical Industries was the first to manufacture and sell paraquat in 1962 under the trade name Gramoxone.
Today, paraquat is among the most commonly used herbicides. In addition to Gramoxone, paraquat is also used in a multitude of products, including: Firestorm, Helmquat, Cyclone, and Parazone.
Paraquat kills a wide range of grasses and weeds within minutes of application. The herbicide is inactivated on contact with soil, meaning that no biologically active residues remain in the soil. Once applied, farmers can plant or sow crops almost immediately.
Using Paraquat Products Safely
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified paraquat products as Restricted Use Pesticides that can only be used by trained certified applicators. The free, hour-long training course is available online.
During paraquat application, users need extra protective equipment including chemical-resistant gloves, respiratory protection, and safety glasses that include splash guards.
In addition, the EPA has outlined several other guidelines for use. To prevent injury and/or death from paraquat ingestion, paraquat products must:
- be used only by a certified applicator.
- never be transferred to a food, drink or any other container.
- always be kept secured to prevent access by children or unauthorized persons.
- never be stored in or around residential dwellings.
- never be used around home gardens, schools, parks, golf courses, or playgrounds.
Harmful Effects of Exposure to Paraquat Herbicide
Paraquat is highly toxic. According to the CDC, the most likely means of paraquat poisoning is due to ingestion (swallowing).
Ingesting paraquat causes liver, lung, heart, and kidney failure within several days to several weeks, and can lead to death up to 30 days after ingestion.
Paraquat poisoning is also possible after exposure to the skin, which occurs if the user is not following the guidelines for proper use according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
A person could also be poisoned with paraquat by inhaling the product, which could lead to lung damage. To prevent this outcome, certified product applicators – and anyone who is in the treatment area – should be properly outfitted with protective gear to mitigate the potential risks from spray drift.
Chronic exposure of paraquat can lead to lung damage, kidney failure, heart failure, and esophageal strictures.
Paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease
Recently, the harmful effects of paraquat use have come under scrutiny, especially as the exposure relates to Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a disabling neurodegenerative disorder that affects the motor system with the following symptoms: tremors in the arms and legs, impaired coordination and balance, slow movements, and rigidity of the body and limbs.
Parkinson’s disease is chronic and progressive. Current medical therapies only contribute to partial relief of symptoms caused by the disorder.
One study assessed the lifetime use of paraquat and positively associated the herbicide with the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.
Other studies revealed a greater risk of Parkinson’s disease in individuals who had been exposed to paraquat. Additionally, users who directly applied paraquat suffered twice the risk of Parkinson’s disease than the general population.
Despite paraquat’s link to Parkinson’s disease, the herbicide is still widely used in the United States. However, a bill called the Protect Against Paraquat Act is pending in Congress. The bill would prohibit the sale and use of existing stock of paraquat, would ban paraquat residue on food, and would require the EPA to cancel the registration for all uses of paraquat.
Have You Been Affected by Paraquat Exposure?
If you or a loved one have been exposed to paraquat and developed Parkinson’s disease, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.
Contact VanDerGinst Law for a free consultation to review your case. Our team of experienced, knowledgeable attorneys is ready to help you every step of the way.
VanDerGinst Law has represented thousands of injury victims and has recovered hundreds of millions of dollars on their behalf. We’ll fight to get you the compensation you deserve.
If we don’t win, you don’t pay. Guaranteed.
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