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Repeated Exposure to Paraquat Led To Parkinson’s Disease, Lawsuit Alleges

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A Colorado man indicates in a recently filed lawsuit that he developed Parkinson’s disease in 2010, after repeated exposure to Paraquat-based weed and grass killers, which he used for years to clear firing ranges. However, he was unaware Paraquat led to Parkinson’s until recently, since the manufacturers never provided any warnings for consumers.

Eugene Bynes, Jr. filed the complaint (PDF) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois on July 8, joining a growing number of individuals nationwide who are now pursuing claims against Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC, and Chevron U.S.A. Inc.

The companies have been involved for decades in the manufacturing and sale and Paraquat-based herbicides, which are heavily restricted in the United States, since accidentally ingesting even a small amount poses a serious risk of poisoning and death. However, Bynes and other plaintiffs allege that Syngenta and Chevron have withheld information about the risk that Paraquat may cause Parkinson’s disease, even when the recommended precautions are followed.

Bynes currently lives in Colorado, but indicates he was repeatedly exposed to Paraquat while cleaning and clearing firing ranges in Massachusetts over a period of several years.

“Plaintiff worked cleaning and clearing firing ranges and was in close contact with Paraquat as he would mix, prepare, load, and spray Paraquat daily. Plaintiff also used a 3 gallon hand-held pressure sprayer to spray weeds and vegetation,” Bynes’ lawsuit states. “Plaintiff was repeatedly exposed to and inhaled, ingested, or absorbed Paraquat in the course of mixing, spraying, and otherwise applying Paraquat as well as from spray from the use of Paraquat around him.”

Although the manufacturers knew or should have known Paraquat was a highly toxic substance which can cause severe neurological injuries and impairments, Bynes indicates the companies continued to promote the weedkiller as safe and withheld warnings or instructions which may have reduced the risk.

According to the lawsuit, Bynes did not discover the connection between Paraquat exposure and Parkinson’s disease, since statements made by the manufacturers were “designed to mislead the agricultural community and the public at large – including the Plaintiff.”

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.

The lawsuit alleges repeated exposure to Paraquat creates oxidative stress, and is particularly toxic to human nerve cells, including dopaminergic neurons that may result in motor deficits and behavioral changes consistent with Parkinson’s.

“Epidemiological studies have also found that exposure to Paraquat significantly increases the risk of contracting Parkinson’s disease,” according to the complaint. “A number of studies have found that the risk of Parkinson’s disease is more than double in populations with occupational exposure to Paraquat compared to populations without such exposure.”

The case joins dozens of Paraquat lawsuits now filed in courts throughout the U.S., each raising similar allegations.

Following an order issued by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation last 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.

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