Update: EPA Sued Over Clearance of Endocrine-Disrupting Pesticide
Five public-interest groups have filed a lawsuit (PDF) against the Environmental Protection Agency over its decision to re-approve atrazine, a weed killer that has been banned across much of the world. The suit alleges that “atrazine castrates frogs, impairs fish reproduction and is linked to birth defects and cancer in humans.” EPA’s decision to clear atrazine is part of a recent effort by the agency to quickly approve numerous harmful pesticides, including paraquat, dicamba, 1,3-D and parathyroids.
The lawsuit is: RURAL COALITION, PESTICIDE ACTION NETWORK NORTH AMERICA, BEYOND PESTICIDES, CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY, and CENTER FOR FOOD SAFETY v. UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, and ANDREW WHEELER. Case: 20-73220. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
What is Paraquat?
Paraquat Concentrate (Gramoxone) is a contact herbicide used to control a broad spectrum of emerged weeds including most small annual broadleaf and grass weeds. It can also be used to suppress perennial weeds by destroying green foliage and as a desiccant/defoliant at harvest. Paraquat was manufactured by Syngenta as an alternative to Roundup weed killer, and has been on the U.S. market since 1962.
How Does it Work?
Paraquat works by inhibiting photosynthesis. In light-exposed plants, it accepts electrons from photosystem I and transfers them to molecular oxygen. In this manner, destructive reactive oxygen species are produced. The formation of reactive oxygen species destroys the plant organelles and causes cell death.
What’s the Problem?
Paraquat is toxic to vital organs, including the liver, kidneys, heart and respiratory system. The chemical is deadly if ingested and has long been criticized by public health experts who say that farm workers, especially in less educated and less regulated markets, are at risk if they use the chemical improperly.
“It’s terribly toxic,” said Mark Davis, senior officer for pesticide management at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. “Once it is in your body there is no antidote.”
1980s – An experiment conducted in California found that a heroin contaminant known as MPTP (1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine) destroyed dopamine neurons, which are the same neurons that suffer damage in Parkinson’s disease patients. MPTP and Paraquat share similar chemical structures.
1997 – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that exposure to paraquat during the mixing, loading, and application of the weed killer was the primary route of exposure to the chemical. Additionally, EPA suggested that despite Paraquat not being registered for residential use, individuals who live near farms where the herbicide is used may also be exposed.
2009 – A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology revealed that any exposure to Paraquat within 1,600 feet of a home resulted in a 75% increased risk of Parkinson’s disease.
2011 – Environmental Health Perspectives published results from a study of Parkinson’s disease cases and pesticides which concluded that Paraquat was a significant health concern.
2014 – The Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology published 5 case-control studies that revealed a greater risk of Parkinson’s disease in individuals who had been exposed to Paraquat. Workers who had applied Paraquat suffered twice the risk of Parkinson’s disease compared to the general population.
2016 – EPA announced it would be re-evaluating Paraquat, including the potential link to Parkinson’s disease.
2017 – The Unified Parkinson’s Advocacy Council sent a letter to the EPA which included data that linked Paraquat to an increased risk for Parkinson’s disease symptoms and pathology, and concluded by urging the agency to deny Paraquat’s re-registration. Later that year, a lawsuit was filed against Syngenta, Growmark and Chevron Chemical on behalf of farmers and agricultural workers who had developed Parkinson’s disease after exposure to Paraquat.
2018 – The Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program (NTP) announced its protocol for a review of Paraquat dichloride exposure and Parkinson’s disease. Acknowledging that hundreds of studies had investigated the link between Paraquat exposure and Parkinson’s, the review will attempt to map evidence that links the herbicide with Parkinson’s disease.
Self-poisoning with herbicides like Paraquat is a major problem in developing countries. In fact, an estimated 300,000 deaths occur each year in the Asia-Pacific region due to self-poisoning, according to a 2006 study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.
How Could I be Exposed?
You could be exposed to Paraquat in the following ways:
- Ingestion (most common)
- Occupational exposure
- Prolonged skin exposure
- Accidental exposure
What Happens After Absorption?
After Paraquat is absorbed inside the body, the herbicide is concentrated inside many cells and undergoes redox cycling, leading to cell damage. Over time, these processes lead to multi-organ failure (lungs, kidneys, liver & heart).
Symptoms of Paraquat Exposure
- Shortness of breath
- Abdominal pain
- Mucosal lesions of mouth and tongue
How To Test For Paraquat Exposure
- Urine test
- Chest x-ray
- ABG scan
- Renal profile
- Live function test
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the central nervous system (CNS) that affects movement, often including tremors, according to the Mayo Clinic. Onset of symptoms occurs gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. Tremors are common, but the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement.
- Stiff muscles
- Difficulty standing
- Difficulty walking
- Difficulty with bodily movements
- Involuntary movements
- Muscle rigidity
- Problems with coordination
- Rhythmic muscle contractions
- Slow bodily movement
- Slow shuffling gait
Although Parkinson’s disease can’t be cured, prescription medications can significantly improve your symptoms. In severe cases, surgery to regulate certain regions of the brain and improve symptoms may be required.
Do I Have a Paraquat Lawsuit?
The Pharmaceutical Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in Paraquat Lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new Parkinson’s disease cases in all 50 states.
If you or a loved one developed Parkinson’s or other serious side effects after being exposed to Paraquat herbicide, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing a suit and we can help.