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A certified pesticide applicator, who underwent training on the safe handling of toxic chemicals, indicates he still developed Parkinson’s disease from exposure to paraquat, alleging the manufacturer failed to warn about the neurological risks which may result from normal handling of the controversial weed and grass killer in a recently filed lawsuit.
Paraquat has been widely used by agricultural workers for decades, even though it has been banned in several countries due to the serious poisoning risks, which can result in fatal injuries if even small amounts are ingested.
The herbicide is heavily restricted in the United States, requiring users to go through special a training and certification process before they are allowed to purchase, mix or spray paraquat. However, the training is largely focused on the risk of Paraquat poisoning, and a growing number of lawsuits now allege manufacturers provided insufficient warnings about the link between paraquat and Parkinson’s disease.
In a complaint (PDF) filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the District of California, Russell Denes indicates that he mixed and applied paraquat over at least three decades, first working for a certified herbicide applicator, then obtaining the license himself.
Certified applicators are taught how to safely and properly mix herbicides and pesticides, how to store it, spray it, and what amounts and formulations to use, as well as the proper safety precautions. However, the lawsuit indicates the makers of paraquat deceived consumers and regulators, meaning that the certified applicator training did not include warnings or precautions that paraquat exposure could cause Parkinson’s disease, which is a serious and progressive neurological disease that causes shaking, stiffness and difficulty walking, balancing and coordinating body movements.
“Although Plaintiff Russell Denes 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 diseases such as Parkinson’s disease,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiff Russell Denes was never told, either by a medical professional, by media, or by the Defendants, that chronic- low-dose exposure to Paraquat could cause him to suffer Parkinson’s disease.”
Over the past decade, a series of independent studies have established 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. However, the lawsuit alleges that Syngenta, Chevron and other manufacturers knew or should have known about the risk of Parkinson’s disease after parquat exposure, but failed to warn consumers and regulators.
The case now joins a growing number of paraquat lawsuits now being pursued throughout the U.S. court system, each raising similar allegations that individuals may have avoided a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis if information and warnings had been provided.