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Missouri Man Claims Health Risks from Herbicide Paraquat Caused Parkinson’s Disease

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Syngenta and Chevron face a product liability lawsuit over failure to disclose the health risks associated with Paraquat, indicating that years of exposure to the herbicide caused a Missouri man to develop Parkinson’s disease.

The complaint (PDF) was filed by Edwin Edward in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on May 10, indicating that many studies have found an association between Paraquat and Parkinson’s disease, including findings that populations of workers regularly exposed to the herbicide face a two- to five-fold greater risk.

Paraquat has been widely used as a weed and grass killer for decades on farms throughout the United States, even though it has been banned in several countries due to the serious health risks. However, warnings and safety instructions provided for users largely focus on the risk of Paraquat poisoning, as ingesting even small amounts can result in fatal injuries.

“Hundreds of in vitro studies have found that paraquat creates oxidative stress that results in the degeneration and death of dopaminergic neurons (and many other types of animal cells),” the lawsuit states. “Defendants had knowledge of these studies and the relationship between paraquat exposure and PD but actively and fraudulently concealed this information from Plaintiff and others.”

Edwards indicates he began using Paraquat in 1975, and had no idea about the Parkinson’s disease health risks from the herbicide until earlier this year. The lawsuit presents claims for strict liability, design defect, failure to warn, negligence, and breach of warranty, seeking both compensatory damages for pain and suffering, as well as punitive damages as a result of the manufacturer’s failure to warn consumers.

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.

While genetics are often believed to be a major cause of Parkinson’s disease, growing research indicates 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.

Edwards alleges Syngenta and Chevron had knowledge about studies highlighting the relationship between their product and Parkinson’s disease, yet actively and fraudulently concealed the potential health risks from the herbicide Paraquat.

The case joins a growing number of similar Paraquat lawsuits which have been filed throughout the federal court system in recent weeks by individuals exposed from direct handling of the herbicide, working in the same fields where it was sprayed or living near farmland where Paraquat was regularly applied. Each of the claims raise similar allegations, indicating plaintiffs may have avoided a diagnosis if information about the health risks had been disclosed.

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