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According to allegations raised in a recently filed wrongful death lawsuit, an Illinois man developed Parkinson’s disease from side effects of Paraquat, indicating that the progressive nervous system disorder was ultimately fatal after decades of regular exposure to the controversial weedkiller.
Diane Hawkins filed the complaint (PDF) late last week in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, as representative for the estate of her father, Donald Johnson, who directly mixed and applied Paraquat on farmland where he lived for decades.
Paraquat is a herbicide that is regularly used within the agricultural industry, and sold through farming and supply stores under a number of brand names, including Gramoxone, Blanco, Cyclone, Bonedry and others. However, it is known to be highly toxic, with users facing a risk of Paraquat poisoning if even a small amount of the weedkiller is ingested. However, the lawsuit indicates exposure to Paraquat for sustained periods of time increases the risk of Parkinson’s disease.
“On numerous occasions, Paraquat came into contact with Plaintiff’s skin while mixing and spraying Paraquat,” the lawsuit states. “During the entire time that Plaintiff was exposed to Paraquat, Plaintiff did not know that exposure to Paraquat, when handled according to the instructions, could be injurious to himself or others.”
The Paraquat wrongful death lawsuit alleges the manufacturers knew or should have known the herbicide was a highly toxic substance, which can cause severe neurological injuries and impairment. However, warnings about the potential risks was not disclosed to users.
In 2012, researchers from UCLA found a link between pesticide use and a risk of developing Parkinson’s, indicating that individuals who suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and were exposed to Paraquat were three times more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.
Another study published in May 2013 found yet another link between pesticide exposure and an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, indicating that pesticide exposure may increased the risk of developing Parkinson’s by 60 percent.
That study also found the risk increased with exposure to any type of pesticide, herbicide or solvent; but exposure to specific chemicals doubled the risk. Chemicals used in the test included Paraquat, Maneb and other pesticides.
In March 2016, the EPA announced it would be re-evaluating the health risks with Paraquat, and a number of health experts and consumer advocacy groups have called on the agency to remove Paraquat-based herbicides from the market in the U.S. However, it continues to be used by farmers and other industries for weed and grass control, potentially exposing individuals handling, mixing or applying the Paraquat to life-long health risks.
The case joints a growing number of similar Paraquat lawsuits now being pursued in courts throughout the United States, each alleging that users may have avoided a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis if warnings and safety instructions had been provided for farm workers and those living hear where it was regularly sprayed.
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.