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A Louisiana woman indicates in a recently filed lawsuit that exposure to the herbicide paraquat left her with a neurological injury, producing symptoms similar to those associated with Parkinson’s disease.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by Emile Folse in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana on June 3, alleging Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC. and Chevron USA, Inc. concealed the risks associated with the controversial herbicide for years.
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, a growing number of Paraquat lawsuits now allege Syngenta withheld information 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.
Folse indicates she used Paraquat herbicides regularly from the 1980s until about 1998, which she claims left her with permanent neurological symptoms consistent with Parkinson’s disease, the lawsuit indicates. After experiencing these symptoms for years, she was eventually diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2020, and indicates she had no prior knowledge the herbicide was the cause of her problems, since information was withheld by the manufacturers.
“Hundreds of in vitro studies (experiments in a test tube, culture dish, or other controlled experimental environment) have found that paraquat causes the degeneration and death of dopaminergic neurons,” the lawsuit states. “Many epidemiological studies (studies of the patterns and causes of disease in defined populations) have found an association between paraquat exposure and Parkinson’s disease, including multiple studies finding a two- to five-fold or greater increase in the risk of Parkinson’s disease in populations with occupational exposure to paraquat compared to populations without such exposure.”
The lawsuit indicates that each of the Defendants knew or should have known about the risk of neurological injuries for individuals exposed to Paraquat herbicides, including those nearby while it was being used or who entered fields where it had been sprayed, yet the manufacturers concealed the risk.
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 last week, the complaint filed by Folse and other plaintiffs will be 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.