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While a number of Paraquat lawsuits have been filed in recent months by farmers and agricultural workers diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease after spraying the controversial herbicide, a case recently brought by a Colorado man indicates he was also left with the severe neurological injury after living near a facility where the weed killer was mixed and sprayed on fields.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by Timothy Roys in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois on June 22, alleging that Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC., and Chevron USA, Inc. knew about the link between Paraquat and Parkinson’s disease for years, but failed to warn the public.
Paraquat is a highly toxic grass and weed killer, which has been sold for decades to farmers and through agricultural cooperatives. The chemical is known to be lethal, and can result in sudden death if only a small amount is ingested. As a result, individuals in the United States are required to go through a special training program before purchasing, handling or spraying the product. However, hundreds of lawsuits now allege that the manufacturers withheld information about the risk of Parkinson’s disease caused by Paraquat exposure, following the normal and expected handling, mixing and spraying of the weed killer.
Given common questions of fact and law raised in lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system, the litigation was recently centralized in the Southern District of Illinois, where one judge will will preside over discovery and pretrial proceedings in a Paraquat MDL.
Unlike most of the lawsuits filed to date, Roys’ complaint indicates he was exposed to Paraquat not as an agricultural worker, but instead because he lived near a mixing facility from about 1973 through 1982 in Larimer County in Colorado and surrounding areas, where the herbicide was sprayed on fields. As a result of the exposure, Roys indicates he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in December 2012.
“Defendants’ tortious conduct, including their negligent acts and omissions in the research, testing, design, manufacture, marketing, and sale of Paraquat, caused Plaintiff injuries,” the lawsuit states. “At all relevant times, Defendants knew or, in the exercise of reasonable care, should have known that Paraquat was a highly toxic substance that can cause severe neurological injuries and impairment, and should have taken steps in their research, manufacture, and sale of Paraquat to ensure that people would not be harmed by foreseeable uses of Paraquat.”
While genetics are often believed to be a major cause of Parkinson’s disease, growing research indicates genes may only 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.
Roys indicates his Paraquat exposure occurred through absorption or penetration of the skin, through respiration into the lungs and through ingestion of small droplets that entered his mouth, nose or airways from the air. Once absorbed, the Paraquat entered his bloodstream, attacked his nervous system and was a substantial factor in his Parkinson’s diagnosis, according to the lawsuit.