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Update: Lawsuit Challenges EPA Effort to Approve Numerous Harmful Weed Killers

Public-interest groups on Oct. 30, 2020, sued the EPA over its decision to re-approve atrazine, an endocrine-disrupting herbicide, and numerous “controversial and harmful pesticides” including Paraquat, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. The suit, filed in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals under case number 20-73220, alleges that before clearing atrazine, EPA failed in its legal duty to ensure that the weed killer would not cause unreasonable harm to public health and the environment.

“In siding with the pesticide industry over young children, the pesticide office at the EPA has sunk to a new low,” said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There are few pesticides that cause this much harm at such low doses.”

What is Paraquat?

Paraquat is a toxic chemical that is widely used as a herbicide (plant killer), primarily for weed and grass control, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies paraquat as “restricted use.” This means that it can be used only by people who are licensed applicators. Paraquat is marketed under various trade names including Gramoxone, Para-SHOT, Parazone, Quick-Quat, Firestorm, Helmquat and more.

What’s the Problem?

Recent lawsuits allege that the makers of paraquat failed to adequately warn the public of the increased risk of Parkinson’s disease and other serious side effects associated with exposure to the herbicide. An experiment performed in California during the 1980s 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.

Paraquat Side Effects

Serious side effects of paraquat exposure may include:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Impaired lung function
  • Damaged immune systems
  • Severe skin irritation / dermatitis
  • Kidney damage
  • Reproductive dangers in both women and men
  • And more

Who is at Risk?

The individuals at the greatest risk for development of Parkinson’s from paraquat exposure include licensed applicators, farm workers, and those who live in close proximity to fields where the herbicide is sprayed. 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. A 2009 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.

Paraquat Legal Status

The potential health risks associated with paraquat have led many countries to ban the herbicide outright. As of late 2020, more than 40 countries have committed to phasing out paraquat. Even the Government of China, a country not typically known for strict environmental regulations, announced in 2012 that it would move away from the use of paraquat in order to protect the health of its citizens. The U.S. EPA continues to maintain that paraquat is safe when used properly; however, the chemical is currently under mandatory review by the agency.

EPA Paraquat Parkinson’s Review

The EPA in Oct. 2020 announced that it was stepping up its review of paraquat weed killers. “The Agency is seeking public input on the Proposed Interim Decision,” EPA said. “The Proposed Interim Decision proposes new mitigation measures to reduce potential ecological risks and protect public health based on the findings in the draft risk assessments and comments submitted during the public comment period.” These measures include:

  • Prohibiting aerial application for all uses and use sites except cotton desiccation;
  • Prohibiting pressurized handgun and backpack sprayer application methods on the label;
  • Limiting the maximum application rate for alfalfa to one pound of active ingredient per acre;
  • Requiring enclosed cabs if area treated in 24-hour period is more than 80 acres;
  • Requiring enclosed cabs or PF10 respirators if area treated in 24-hour period is 80 acres or less;
  • Requiring a residential area drift buffer and 7-day restricted entry interval (REI) for cotton desiccation;
  • Requiring a 48-hour REI for all crops and uses except cotton desiccation; and
  • Adding mandatory spray drift management label language.

How Could I be Exposed?

You could be exposed to paraquat in the following ways:

  • Ingestion (most common)
  • Occupational exposure
  • Prolonged skin exposure
  • Inhalation
  • Accidental exposure
  • Intentional ingestion (paraquat poisoning)

Symptoms of Paraquat Exposure

  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Mucosal lesions of mouth and tongue
  • Dermatitis
  • Hypotension
  • Tachypnoea
  • Hypoxia
  • Dehydration

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a type of movement disorder that occurs when nerve cells in the brain don’t produce enough of a brain chemical called dopamine, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Some cases of Parkinson’s are genetic, but most cases do not seem to run in families. Exposure to chemicals like paraquat might play a role in development of the disease.

Parkinson’s Symptoms

Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease tend to begin gradually, often on one side of the body. Later they affect both sides. These symptoms include:

  • Trembling of hands, arms, legs, jaw and face
  • Stiffness of the arms, legs and trunk
  • Slowness of movement
  • Poor balance / coordination

What Damages Could I Be Awarded?

If you or a loved one developed Parkinson’s or other serious side effects resulting from paraquat exposure, filing a lawsuit could help pay for medical bills, lost wages, and lost earning capacity. Pursuing a claim can also encourage herbicide manufacturers to fully test their products before releasing them on the market, and to stop selling dangerous products.

Do I Have a Paraquat Class Action Lawsuit?

The Class Action 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.

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