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A product liability lawsuit filed by a Kentucky couple indicates a herbicide and pesticide applicator developed Parkinson’s disease from Paraquat, after years of mixing, spraying, applying and otherwise coming into contact with the controversial weedkiller.
The complaint (PDF) was filed last week by Roger Dale McNeill and his wife, Wanda, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. The lawsuit names Syngenta Crop Protection and Chevron U.S.A., Inc. as the defendants, alleging information was withheld from consumers about the serious health risks associated with being a Paraquat applicator.
Paraquat is known to be highly toxic, and applicators are informed that ingesting even a small amount can result in sudden death. As a result, herbicide and pesticide applicators in the United States are now required to go through a special training program before purchasing, handling or spraying the product. However, the lawsuit alleges that information was not disclosed about the risk of Parkinson’s disease and other neurological injuries, which may result from normal and expected handling of the weed killer, as well as herbicide drift.
McNeill worked for years as a herbicide and pesticide applicator with Paraquat in Kentucky in the 1970s, coming into contact with the product when it was mixed, loaded, applied, sprayed or cleaned off equipment. The lawsuit indicates he was also exposed to Paraquat from spray drift, which occurs when the herbicide spray droplets move from the target area to locations where it was not intended, typically due to wind. McNeill also regularly came into contact with plants sprayed with Paraquat, according to the complaint.
“The Paraquat to which Plaintiff Roger Dale McNeill 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.”
McNeill was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2020, which the lawsuit indicates was a direct result of his work as a Paraquat applicator.
The case joins dozens of Paraquat lawsuits now filed in courts throughout the U.S., brought by individuals now discovering that a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis or symptoms of neurological injuries may be the result of prior exposure.
While genetics are often believed to be a major cause of Parkinson’s disease, growing research indicates 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.
Following an order issued by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation earlier this month, the complaints are being transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, where the Paraquat litigation has been centralized before one judge for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings. However, if Paraquat settlements or another resolution for the litigation is not reached, each individual case may later be returned to the home district where it was originally filed for a future trial.