Because of the high toxicity of paraquat, and the likelihood of severe illness or even death when consumed, the federal government has added additional precautions to the use of the herbicide. Read on for more information about those precautions, as well as answers to the questions our experienced Paraquat litigation attorneys hear most frequently regarding paraquat lawsuits.
Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) placed warnings related to the use of chemical herbicide, Paraquat, and made changes to the use of the pesticide. Paraquat is a chemical used by the agriculture industry to kill and control weeds and grass, commonly available in a liquid form and sprayed through an applicator. Paraquat is typically used in no-till farming and most often used as a spray and commonly referred to and marketed by several different branded names: 1) Firestorm, 2) Parazone, 3) Gramoxone, 4) Ortho-Paraquat, 5) Para-SHOT, 6) Helmquat, and 7) Quick-Quat. As described below, not only is Paraquat dangerous and can cause serious and permanent injuries and/or death but has been known to cause Parkinson’s disease.
Paraquat is sprayed directly to plants and kills green cells upon contact, it controls and kills weeds and is used to clear fields prior to the planting of crops.
Is Paraquat Dangerous? Yes. — Does it cause Parkinson’s Disease?
Paraquat is known to be extremely dangerous to humans, primarily when ingested or touches a person’s skin; it is known to cause damage to the kidneys, liver, and esophagus. And, Paraquat is fatal when ingested or inhaled; just one “sip” of the chemical could kill or create serious and permanent personal injuries.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”), ingesting Paraquat causes damage to a person’s liver, lung, heart, and kidneys. Failure to address Paraquat poisoning can certainly cause death within less than 30 days. In fact the EPA issued guidance and concluded that “One Sip Can Kill” regarding the ingestion of Paraquat.
Because of this risk to life and severe injury, Paraquat is considered a “Restricted Use Product”, a classification issued by the EPA which states that this is a product deemed not available for use or purchase by the general public. This certification permits the use of a product by a certified applicator and for commercial use. Generally, the general public cannot buy Paraquat – however, if you live near or around areas where the product is used you could be exposed and suffer significant injuries (as described in further detail below).
In short, to use this product, regulators require a person be trained on its use and application. Specifically, Paraquat manufacturers are under a duty to instruct those approved to purchase this product of the critical steps and precautions in its use to prevent exposure to avoid severe injury and death to themselves and others. Importantly, the EPA has recently determined that the manufacturers of these chemical herbicides have failed in their duty to properly inform their customers of the risks, safety measures, and protocols required by the “Restricted Use Product” classification.
Interestingly, the training associated with the application and/or use of Paraquat is different than the typical certified applicator training many people have undergone. The training and application of this “weed killer” is much more intense because of its ability to cause permanent injury or wrongful death to people.
The Link between Paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease!
Increasing evidence has suggested that the use of Paraquat has been linked to severe health conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, and if you or someone you know has Parkinson’s disease our team of personal injury lawyers are interested in speaking with you regarding possible product liability claims and lawsuits.
There have been extensive studies on the connection between the use and exposure of Paraquat and Parkinson’s disease. Some of those studies are:
- A 2009 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that any exposure to Paraquat within 500 meters of a home was associated with an increase risk to Parkinson’s disease or the onset signs leading to Parkinson’s.
- In a 2011 study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives was designed to examine the links, if any, between the use of herbicides and the pathophysiological mechanisms of Parkinson’s disease, and was found to be positively associated with Parkinson’s.
- In February 2011 a National Institutes of Health study identified two pesticides associated with Parkinson’s disease, rotenone and paraquat.
- And finally, in a February 2021 article on Parkinson’s News Today found that prolonged low level inhalation of paraquat increased the risk of Parkinson’s.
Signs and Symptoms of Paraquat Exposure – According to the CDC
- After ingestion an individual will likely have pain and swelling in the mouth or throat followed by gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
- Ingestion may also lead to heart failure, kidney failure, liver failure and lung scarring.
- Individuals may also experience confusion, fast heart rate, muscle weakness, pulmonary edema, respiratory failures, and seizures.
Will Paraquat that is used to clear land for farming, building of houses, etc. “degraded”?
According to the following studies, the chemical herbicide, paraquat, could take anywhere from 6 to 20 years to degrade in the soil after being used to clear the land.
- A study published online at the National Center for Biotechnology Information discusses a time period of up to 6 years for paraquat to degrade in the soil.
- However, a study by Dr. Meriel Watts, PhD discusses a 20-year time period for paraquat to degrade.
Who is eligible to file a claim?
Individuals who have mixed, loaded, handled, sprayed and/or applied these herbicides (including but not limited to, farmers, landscapers, groundskeepers, and gardeners) or those who have entered agricultural areas after Paraquat had been applied to the fields and may have been exposed to spray drift, as well as bystanders who may have been exposed to spray drift and may have suffered injuries due to exposure, may be eligible for damages. In addition, if you live near an area where Paraquat was used you could have been exposed and you may have legal rights.
If you or a loved one may have been exposed and have any of the symptoms below, call us today!
- Parkinson’s disease (tremors, slowed movement, muscle stiffness, impaired posture, balance issues, etc.);
- Brain damage absent Parkinson’s pathology;
- Liver Injury, including liver failure;
- Kidney injury, including bilateral kidney failure;
- Lung damage;
- Wrongful death;
- Heart Failure; and
- Still Births and Birth Defects.
|Type of Herbicide||Active Chemical Ingredient||Defendants||Reason for Lawsuits||Status as of April 2021|
|Gramoxone, Helmquat, Firestorm, Parasone, Para-Shot, and more||Paraquat||Syngenta, Growmark, and Chevron U.S.A, Inc.||Parkinson’s disease||Ongoing – First paraquat Parkinson’s disease lawsuit filed in October 2017|
|Roundup||Glyphosate||Monsanto and Bayer||Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia, and multiple myeloma||Ongoing, tens of thousands of cases settled and funds already set aside for future claimants injured by the product|
*Graph from The National Law Review, April 15, 2021 – Paraquat Exposure Alert: Paraquat Linked to Parkinson’s Disease – Agricultural Workers Could Be Entitled to Compensation
Paraquat Use in the United States is on the Rise!
An article dated April 15, 2021, written by the National Law Review, discusses how countries around the world have banned the use of Paraquat; however the use of Paraquat is not only legal in the United States, but its continued use is continuing to grow, despite all of the information available to us about the dangers posed to exposure to Paraquat. The increased use of this dangerous herbicide translates to additional exposure to these harmful chemicals.
In a December 2016 article in the New York Times, discusses that although Paraquat is still produced in Great Britain, it is banned in England and the European Union. The article also provides a regulatory filing by the EPA which details the known link, based on scientific data between the prolonged exposure of Paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease.
One of the plants which manufacture Paraquat is owned by a company called Syngenta, a Switzerland based company – and even though Paraquat is manufactured in Switzerland, the country has banned its use since 1989.
Even China, a nation not generally known for their environmental protections, decided to phase out the use of Paraquat since 2012, yet still allows its production only for exportation.
Thus, its only natural to wonder why the US has continued to allow the use of Paraquat when most developed countries have prohibited the use of the herbicide and that health risks have been known as far back as 1989.
In 2019 legislation was introduced to eliminate the use of Paraquat in the United States According to the Michael J Fox Foundation, an article dated August 4, 2020 discussing the current legislation which has only been introduced in the house on July 17, 2019 and has not moved forward in the House because the speaker has not decided to bring it to the floor for review and debate, stated the following, “…the herbicide [paraquat] is still used widely in the United States – in fact, its use is increasing due to crop’s resistance to other kinds of pesticides. Paraquat is dangerous to Americans who work in food and agriculture, but also to everyone who east food treated with it, as there can be herbicide residue on fruits, vegetables and the soil.”
If you or a loved one were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease after exposure to Paraquat, you may qualify for compensation from the manufacture. Do not delay, as time is of the essence to make a claim. Our product liability lawyers are continuing to explore the damages caused by Paraquat and the liability of the manufacturers in placing a dangerous and possibly deadly chemical into commercial use. David I. Shiner, the Firm’s managing partner, has even been appointed by a United States Federal Court to handle Mass Tort cases in the past and through his work on the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC) Mr. Shiner has litigated against some of the largest companies in the country; see CASE NO. 09-2051-MD-ALTONAGA; 01-28-2015; In re: DENTURE CREAM PRODUCTS LIABILITY LITIGATION.
The possible adverse consequences are serious, and you must act now. Call our product liability lawyers immediately for a free, no-cost consultation.
The EPA’s Response to Paraquat Hazards
Accidental ingestion of paraquat results in the deaths of one or two people every year. Many more suffer significant lung scarring, and failure of the internal organs, including the heart, liver, and kidneys. The herbicide is also hazardous to wildlife and domestic animals.
In recent years, the Environmental Protection Agency has put forth regulations regarding the use of products containing paraquat to protect the environment and public health.
These regulations include:
- Changes to the product’s package labeling that highlights the extreme toxicity and the risks associated with using products that contain paraquat dichloride.
- Restricting the use of paraquat to only certified pesticide applicators. Not even individuals working under the supervision of a certified pesticide applicator are permitted to use the product.
- The provision of specialized training for certified pesticide applicators that emphasizes that the product should not be stored in improper containers that could cause the product to leak out or someone to inadvertently drink the product.
- Prohibition of all aerial applications of paraquat except for the desiccation of cotton. The product is not permitted to be used with a pressurized handgun or backpack application devices.
- Limiting the application rate for use on alfalfa fields.
- Requiring restricted entry to areas where the herbicide has been applied of seven days in residential areas and 48 hours for all other uses except in cotton desiccation.
- The addition of label instructions on how to prevent spray drift.
Who Is Affected by Paraquat?
Paraquat is not something that an average consumer can pick up at the corner store and use on his or her home garden. The herbicide is only available for commercial use, and most individuals who are exposed to the chemical are exposed through their job by inhaling or ingesting paraquat or exposure through the skin.
Those at increased risk of suffering ill effects from paraquat exposure include:
- Other agricultural workers
- Licensed paraquat applicators
Frequently Asked Questions About Paraquat Lawsuits
The realization of the hazards posed by this herbicide has grown in recent years, along with the awareness that the illnesses that many agricultural workers have suffered are often connected to the use of this popular and effective product. However, understanding mass tort lawsuits and the differences in seeking compensation through this type of legal action as opposed to a single product liability claim is a source of confusion for many.
Here are answers to some questions we are commonly asked about paraquat lawsuits.
What is an MDL, and how do I join one?
A mass tort is a type of lawsuit in which there are several claimants with factually similar claims against one or a few defendants, who are usually corporate manufacturers. There are different types of mass tort actions, including multidistrict litigation (MDL) and class actions. Each of these types of mass torts is designed to efficiently resolve many factually similar cases without placing an undue burden on the federal court system.
Multidistrict litigation occurs when many individual cases are filed in various district courts around the nation. These plaintiffs and their attorneys can file a motion to transfer the cases to the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. This seven-judge panel will then decide if the cases can be temporarily consolidated, and—if so—will assign the case to a single district, where a judge will oversee a coordinated discovery process of gathering evidence and deposing witnesses.
Once the discovery process has been complete, if a settlement has not yet been reached between the parties, each case will then return to its own district. Additionally, cases that are filed later are permitted to join the MDL. Often, the judge will select a few cases to go to trial to see how juries rule on the facts of the case. This is known as a bellwether trial.
Similarly, a class-action joins cases against a single defendant or a small group of defendants by several plaintiffs with matching complaints about a product. However, unlike MDLs, class-actions remain joined, with only a few members of the class providing testimony. In class-action settlements, claimants are provided an equal portion of compensation, regardless of the severity of the impacts and expenses they incurred when compared to that of other members of the class.
An experienced product liability lawyer from Shiner Law Group can evaluate your case and determine if you are eligible to join an MDL or class action case. Our managing partner, David I. Shiner, has ample experience with mass tort claims, including being appointed to lead such cases as well as serving on the Plaintiff’s Steering Committee.
What are the pros and cons of an MDL when compared to an individual lawsuit?
An estimated 15 percent of all civil lawsuits in the U.S. are a part of an MDL. You should know the potential benefits and problems with mass tort actions.
The pros of MDLs when compared to filing a regular lawsuit include:
- Consistency. You know that you have the opportunity to use the same evidence and witness testimony as other plaintiffs around the nation and can use the results of the bellwether trial as an indication of how your case will likely be resolved.
- Cost-sharing. Because the cases are temporarily joined, there is an opportunity for the firms to join forces, share information, and share the costs of gathering information to the benefit of their clients.
- The ability to be compensated for the injuries and expenses you incurred because of the product, rather than simply receiving a portion of a global settlement, as you would in a class-action case. Additionally, because there are so many cases—and particularly if the bellwether juries are sympathetic to plaintiffs in the early trials—the defendant will often be more interested in resolving the remaining cases.
Some things to consider about MDLs when compared to individual claims are:
- The risk of state-specific laws that can change how the court handles your case compared to cases in other districts. If your case does not resolve before returning to your district court, your attorney may need to catch the judge up on what happened in the case thus far.
- The efficiency of the consolidated discovery process is sometimes outweighed by the time it takes to get the case transferred to an MDL.
How is the rest of the world dealing with the dangers of paraquat?
As explained by the Unified Parkinson’s Advocacy Council, 32 countries—including South Korea, China, Serbia, Zimbabwe, and members of the European Union—have banned the sale and use of the chemical.
While other countries have banned the use of this highly toxic material, however, its use is rapidly rising in the U.S., doubling in the ten-year timeframe between 2006 and 2016.
I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. How likely is it that it was caused by paraquat exposure?
In a letter sent to the EPA by the Michael J. Fox Foundation, on behalf of the Unified Parkinson’s Advocacy Council, it was noted that Parkinson’s Disease affects roughly 750,000 to one million people in the U.S. Studies cited by the council note that individuals who were regularly exposed to paraquat at a young age have a 200 to 600 percent increase in the risk of developing Parkinson’s. Certain genetic factors also combine with the paraquat exposure to increase the risk.
If you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and have a history of farm or agricultural work that involved the use of paraquat herbicides, speak with one of our attorneys about the documentation needed to prove a causal link between the exposure and the disease.
How much does it cost to live with Parkinson’s?
The Michael J. Fox Foundation notes that the average person living with Parkinson’s in the U.S. spends about $26,400 on medical care each year. Because of the degenerative nature of the disease, most individuals will ultimately become so debilitated that they cannot work and must rely on friends, family, and federal assistance programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security Disability Insurance. The provision of these programs’ benefits to individuals with Parkinson’s is estimated to cost the country up to $26 billion a year.
When were the first paraquat lawsuits filed in the U.S.?
The first U.S, paraquat lawsuits were filed in October 2017 in Illinois. Since then, numerous agriculture workers across the country have joined these suits.
Who are the defendants in these lawsuits?
The defendants include the companies Syngenta, Growmark, and Chevron.
Are the paraquat cases involved in the Roundup cases?
No. Paraquat is actually an alternative for Roundup-resistant weeds. They are completely different products, with different effects and different cases. Roundup—a brand name for herbicides containing glyphosate—is linked to various types of cancer, while paraquat is linked to Parkinson’s Disease and serious internal injuries.
What can I be compensated for through a paraquat lawsuit?
As with other types of personal injury lawsuits, those filing a lawsuit against manufacturers of paraquat-containing products can seek compensation for both the expenses that were incurred as the result of paraquat-related illnesses including Parkinson’s or damage to the kidneys or other internal organs.
These expenses include:
- The costs of medical care you have already received for your paraquat-related illness or injury, as well as additional medical treatment that you will likely require in the future.
- Lost wages if the effects of paraquat caused you to be too sick or injured to work or to miss work to attend medical appointments related to your paraquat-related illness or injury.
- Loss of future earning capacity if you can no longer earn what you did before paraquat exposure made you ill.
You can also seek compensation for the impacts that your paraquat-related injury or illness has had on your quality of life, such as physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of the enjoyment of life.
How do I prove liability in my paraquat case?
Product liability cases are generally evaluated under the doctrine of strict liability, meaning that the manufacturer or distributor can be found liable even without directly proving negligence. For a successful outcome to your paraquat case, you must show that the manufacturer caused your injuries.
Strict liability in this type of case involves establishing:
- The product had an unreasonably dangerous defect that injured you as a consumer of the product. The defect came into existence either through the design of the product, during manufacture, or during shipment or handling of the product.
- The defect caused an injury while the product was being used as labeled.
- The condition of the product has not substantially changed since it was sold.
How can an attorney from Shiner Law Group help with my paraquat case?
For individuals who have not spent years obtaining an education and experience in the law to best serve their clients, the legal process of pursuing compensation is often complex and overwhelming. The process of obtaining compensation in a product liability case that could be part of an MDL poses even more complexities.
Our attorneys have the experience in this type of case that you need, and can protect your right to seek compensation as well as ensuring that you recover the maximum amount of compensation that is available in your case.
If you were exposed to paraquat and are now dealing with health problems, contact Shiner Law Group online for a free case evaluation or by calling (561) 777-7700.