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While a growing number of lawsuits continue to be filed over Parkinson’s disease linked to Paraquat, a new claim alleges exposure to the herbicide on farmlands caused an Illinois man to suffer severe kidney damage.
In a complaint (PDF) filed late last month in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Ellis Pratt indicates years of spraying Paraquat caused one of his kidneys to fail completely and left the other only barely functional.
Paraquat has been widely used on farms throughout the United States as a grass and weed killer. However, dozens of lawsuits are now being pursued against Syngenta and Chevron, alleging the manufacturers withheld warnings and information from consumers about the Parkinson’s risks associated with handling Paraquat.
According to allegations raised in the lawsuit filed by Pratt, similar problems from Paraquat exposure may also leave users with severe kidney damage. The kidney is the main organ responsible for excretion of Paraquat that enters the body, according to the complaint, which indicates the herbicide is known to be highly nephrotoxic.
“[Skin] exposure to Paraquat has revealed inflammatory cell infiltration, tubular necrosis and diffuse interstitial fibrosis,” Pratt states in the lawsuit. “Paraquat causes toxic chemical reactions to occur in the kidneys, and long-term effects, including kidney failure, are possible.”
Pratt was regularly exposed to Paraquat for about 10 years, from about 1964 through 1974, stating that Paraquat came into contact with his skin while mixing or spraying the herbicide. In addition, he lived close to fields where Paraquat was sprayed, causing additional exposure from pesticide drift and contaminated drinking water.
He subsequently began experiencing symptoms of kidney problems and was officially diagnosed with kidney disease in 2021. He currently has one non-functioning kidney and the other is functioning at only 34%.
“Defendants knew or should have known that Paraquat was a highly toxic substance that can cause severe neurological injuries and impairment,” the lawsuit states. “Defendants’ failure to adequately warn Plaintiff resulted in: (1) Plaintiff being exposed to Paraquat; and (2) scientists and physicians failing to warn and instruct the public, particularly those living in agricultural areas where Paraquat-based pesticides are heavily sprayed, about the risk of Parkinson’s disease and renal disease with exposure to Paraquat.”
Given similar allegations being presented in other Paraquat lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) is scheduled to hear oral arguments later this week about whether the cases should all be centralized before one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings.
Most of the other complaints involve plaintiffs diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease following use of Paraquat, who say the toxic side effects can cause the permanent and disabling condition. A number of studies published in recent years have highlighted a potential increased risk of Parkinson’s among farm workers, even when all recommended precautions were taken while spraying, mixing or handling the herbicide.
While a number of countries have banned Paraquat, since it has been linked to a high risk of poisoning if accidentally ingested, it remains available in the United States under restrictions which require users to go through a special training and certification process. However, lawsuits allege the manufacturers failed to disclose serious health risks associated with the normal and expected use of Paraquat on farmlands.