Syngenta, the manufacturer of the commercial-strength pesticide paraquat, is seeing mounting legal troubles.
A new petition on March 25, filed on behalf of Paul Rakoczy, identifies 14 lawsuits in six federal judicial districts that link paraquat exposure to Parkinson’s disease diagnoses. This petition was submitted to the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation with the intention of creating a multi-district litigation docket.
These lawsuits come at a time when there are increasing concerns about the use of paraquat.
What is Paraquat?
On the market since 1964, paraquat (paraquat dichloride) is one of the most commonly used pesticides in the U.S. agriculture industry to date. It has a broad range of uses, but most frequently it’s used to kill broadleaf weeds and grasses before seeding over 100 types of crops. It’s also a popular choice for controlling weeds in orchards and drying plants before harvesting.
Paraquat is often turned to as a treatment for superweeds resistant to Bayer’s Roundup (glyphosate). Superweeds are increasingly common, which has led to a rise in paraquat application—since 2008, its use has risen by nearly 200%.
However, paraquat is one of the leading causes of fatal poisoning, particularly in Asia, the Pacific Islands, and South and Central Americas, despite its widespread usage. Even a tiny amount of paraquat can lead to fatal poisoning.
However, paraquat is increasingly banned in more than 50 countries, including many in the European Union, and China, and Brazil.
In the U.S., though, more than 8 million pounds of paraquat is used each year on peanut, citrus, wheat, soy, corn, strawberries, grapes, sweet potato crops, and more.
Linking Paraquat to Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is the second most common degenerative neurological disorder, affecting 1% of the population over 60 years old. Parkinson’s is both incurable and progressive, affecting movement, balance, and motor systems.
Men are more commonly affected by Parkinson’s than women, with one finding that men are 50% more likely to be diagnosed. While the causes of Parkinson’s are multifactoral, exposure to occupational toxins is thought to be a reason for this gender imbalance.
Among those occupational toxins is paraquat. Multiple scientific studies have linked the pesticide and Parkinson’s, including a survey conducted by the Agricultural Health Study (2011) that determined individuals were twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s after being exposed to paraquat. Another study found that Parkinson’s may increase by 150% after exposure to paraquat.
What’s more, paraquat exposure doesn’t need to be limited to occupational use to increase risks. The skin easily absorbs paraquat. That may be why a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology stated that individuals living with 500 meters of paraquat usage increased the risk of Parkinson’s by 75%.
Paraquat and Previous Legal Action
The first claims against paraquat regarding Parkinson’s were in Missouri in 2017. The lawsuit was filed against Syngenta and Growmark, both paraquat manufacturers. Plaintiffs included farm owners and workers who applied paraquat or worked on farms where it was used. Several similar lawsuits have been filed across the US since then.
Consumer action against paraquat has also been increasing. Recently, a coalition made up of farm workers, environmental justice, public health, and conservation groups wrote to the EPA, urging them to ban the pesticide because of the documented risks. What’s more, the Michael J. Fox Foundation and the Unified Parkison’s Advocacy Council have actively supported a ban.
Yet the EPA has done little to limit the use of the pesticide. In October 2020, they issued an extension on the use of the chemical, despite the fact that they had previously issued an assessment that indicated the dangerous public health and ecological consequences of paraquat use.
Contact Us to File a Paraquat Lawsuit
The Stark & Stark Mass Tort and Class Action team works with plaintiffs to hold companies responsible for exposure to toxic chemicals in homes, workplaces, and the environment. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s after exposure to paraquat, you can get the support you deserve through this challenging time.
Contact our experienced attorneys today.