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A Tennessee man indicates in a recently filed lawsuit that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease from exposure to Paraquat herbicides, while working as an laborer and farmer throughout the 1980s in California.
Paraquat has been widely used by agricultural workers for decades throughout the United States, even though it has been banned in several countries due to the serious health risks.
In the U.S., the herbicide is heavily restricted, but warnings and safety instructions largely focus on the risk of Paraquat poisoning, as ingesting even small amounts can result in fatal injuries. However, a number of studies published in recent years indicate that there is a link between Paraquat and Parkinson’s, a serious and progressive neurological disease that causes shaking, stiffness and difficulty walking, balancing and coordinating body movements.
In a product liability complaint (PDF) filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on March 19, John Walker indicates that his Parkinson’s diagnosis resulted from years of mixing, loading and applying paraquat, as well as spray drift and contact with sprayed plants.
“The Paraquat to which Plaintiff John Walker was exposed entered his body through absorption or penetration of the skin, mucous membranes, and other epithelial tissues (including tissues of the mouth, nose and nasal passages, trachea, and conducting airways, particularly where cuts, abrasions, rashes, sores, or other tissue damage are present); and/or 2) through the olfactory bulb; and/or 3) through respiration into the lungs; and/or 4) through ingestion into the digestive tract of small droplets swallowed after entering the mouth, nose, or conducting airways,” the lawsuit states. “Once absorbed, the Paraquat entered his bloodstream, attacked his nervous system, and was substantial factor in causing him to suffer Parkinson’s disease.”
Walker presents claims against Syngenta, Chevron and other companies that have manufactured and distributed Paraquat, indicating that negligent acts and omissions during the research, testing, design, manufacture, marketing and sale of Paraquat caused his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis.
Parkinson’s affects more than 500,000 Americans, with approximately 50,000 new cases each year. The disease causes the loss of motor functions, causing imbalance and shaking, which gets progressively worse over time.
While genetics are often believed to be a major cause of Parkinson’s disease, research has found that genes are only believed to be associated with about one-in-ten cases. Exposure to herbicides and pesticides are increasingly considered a leading risk, especially when combined with other factors that place individuals at risk of the development of Parkinson’s.
Studies have found that farmers and agricultural workers exposed to the herbicide are several times more likely to develop the disease, and individuals with certain genetic variations may be 11 times more likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
“Although Plaintiff John Walker knew that the Paraquat to which he was exposed was acutely toxic, he had no reason to suspect that chronic, low-dose exposure to Paraquat could cause neurological disease such as Parkinson’s disease,” according to the complaint, which presents claims of design defect, failure to warn, negligence and breach of implied warranty of merchantability. He seeks both punitive and compensatory damages.
The case joins a growing number of similar paraquat lawsuits that have been filed throughout the federal court system in recent weeks, each raising similar allegations.