Golf Course Caddy Files Paraquat Parkinson’s Disease Lawsuit

A former golf caddy alleges in a recently filed lawsuit that he developed Parkinson’s disease from Paraquat sprayed to control weeds at a golf course where he worked in the Chicago area, indicating that manufacturers of the herbicide sold an unreasonably dangerous product for decades.

James Robinson filed the complaint (PDF) on September 21 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, directly blaming exposure to the controversial weed killer for causing his debilitating neurological disorder.

Paraquat has been sold by Syngenta and Chevron since the 1960s, and has been widely used within the agricultural industry, as well as at golf courses, parks and other areas.

Since it is known to be highly toxic, sale of Paraquat has been heavily regulated, and users are required to go through a special certification and training process to avoid the risk of Paraquat poisoning, which can occur if even a small amount is accidentally ingested or swallowed. However, a growing number of Paraquat lawsuits now allege that the manufacturers knew or should have known that exposure while the pesticide is sprayed, or after it drifts through the air, may cause Parkinson’s disease to develop.

According to the lawsuit, Robinson worked as a golf caddy for years at the Oak Park Country Club in Cook County, Illinois. He was in close contact with Paraquat for years there, both through his work and because he lived near the golf course for years, resulting in repeated exposure after Paraquat was sprayed.

“After repeated and consistent Paraquat exposure, Plaintiff began suffering neurological injuries consistent with Parkinson’s disease,” the lawsuit states. “Paraquat entered Plaintiff’s bloodstream, attacked his nervous system, and caused him to develop Parkinson’s disease. Until recently, Plaintiff had no reason to suspect his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis was connected to his past Paraquat exposure.”

The lawsuit indicates Robinson and many other users of the weed killer were unaware of the herbicide’s link to Parkinson’s disease risk, which many say was intentionally concealed by the manufacturers.

In 2012, researchers from UCLA found a link between pesticide use and a risk of developing Parkinson’s, indicating that individuals who suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and were exposed to Paraquat were three times more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.

Another study published in May 2013 found yet another link between pesticide exposure and an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, indicating that pesticide exposure may increased the risk of developing Parkinson’s by 60 percent.

That study also found the risk increased with exposure to any type of pesticide, herbicide or solvent; but exposure to specific chemicals doubled the risk. Chemicals used in the test included Paraquat, Maneb and other pesticides.

In March 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it would be re-evaluating the health risks with Paraquat, and a number of health experts and consumer advocacy groups have called on the agency to remove Paraquat-based herbicides from the market in the U.S. However, it continues to be used by farmers and other industries for weed and grass control, potentially exposing individuals handling, mixing or applying the Paraquat to life-long health risks.

The case joints a growing number of similar Paraquat Parkinson’s disease lawsuits now being pursued in courts throughout the United States, each alleging that users may have avoided a diagnosis if warnings and safety instructions had been provided for farm workers and those living hear where it was regularly sprayed.

Parkinson’s disease 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.

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