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An Illinois man indicates he suffered severe neurological injuries consistent with Parkinson’s disease following exposure to paraquat, a controversial weedkiller used throughout the United States for decades.
In a complaint (PDF) filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Stephen Durbin claims his injuries were the result of repeated exposure to paraquat-based herbicides at various places throughout the state.
Syngenta and Chevron are named as defendants in the case, which joins a growing number of paraquat lawsuits filed in recent weeks throughout the federal court system.
Paraquat was originally marketed under the brand name Gramoxone in 1962, and became commercially available in the U.S. in 1964. It is widely used to kill broadleaf weeds and grasses before planting numerous types of crops, and is sometimes sprayed on plants before harvest in order to dry them out.
As a result of known health risks, the herbicide has been banned in many countries, and it is subject to severe restrictions in the United States. However, warnings and safety instructions largely focus on the risk of paraquat poisoning, and lawsuits allege the manufacturers failed to adequately disclose the link between paraquat and Parkinson’s disease, which may leave users with chronic and progressive neurological injuries.
A series of studies published over the past year have found the toxic effects of Paraquat go beyond weeds, and also impact animals and humans, indicating that farmers using the herbicide may be several times more likely to develop Parkinson’s. Paraquat research has also found individuals with certain genetic variations may be 11 times more likely to develop Parkinson’s after routine exposure to the herbicide.
Durbin indicates he was repeatedly exposed to the weed killer between 1983 and 2002, during which he mixed, sprayed and otherwise applied paraquat to fields across Illinois. Durbin indicates neither he nor his doctors were aware of the link between paraquat and Parkinson’s disease until 2021, due to the defendants failing to provide adequate warnings about the potential health risks.
“After repeated and consistent paraquat exposure, Plaintiff Stephen Durbin began suffering neurological injuries consistent with Parkinson’s disease,” the lawsuit states. “Defendants knew or should have known of the risk of neurological injuries to persons who used paraquat, who were nearby while it was being used, or who entered fields or orchards where it had been sprayed or areas near where it had been sprayed and fraudulently concealed said risk.”
Parkinson’s disease affects more than 500,000 Americans, with approximately 50,000 new cases each year. The disease causes the loss of motor functions, causing imbalance and shaking, which gets progressively worse over time.