How paraquat is endangering US farmworkers

Treven Pyles

By Treven Pyles

Posted on March 12th, 2021

Sustained use of agricultural chemicals such as paraquat puts farmworkers at serious risk for a wide range of adverse health effects. If you have been exposed to the herbicide paraquat as a farmworker and were subsequently diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, you may be eligible to file a claim to recover financial compensation.

Over 1.1 billion pounds of agricultural chemicals are used annually in the United States, and pesticide exposures on non-residential farms cause thousands of illnesses every year. U.S. farmworkers currently use more than 8 million pounds of paraquat annually on more than 100 types of crops, including row crops, orchards, fruits, and vegetables.

Because it is extremely toxic, paraquat is classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a restricted-use product and is not available to the general public legally; only occupational pesticide users who have undergone specialized training in applying the chemical may use it.

Paraquat exposure and the risk of Parkinson's disease among farmworkers

Farmworkers have been designated "essential workers" by the state governments, and the agriculture and food system has been designated as a critical infrastructure sector. There are approximately 3 million farmworkers in the U.S. - about two million are family farmworkers, and another one million are hired farmworkers - and their jobs are ranked among the most dangerous.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, farmworkers can be exposed to paraquat in a variety of ways, including:

  • ingestion and/or swallowing - mixed easily with food, water, or other beverages. If some safeguard additives (dye, odor, or vomiting agents) are not used, people might not know that their food or water are contaminated;
  • inhalation;
  • skin exposure - poisoning is more likely to occur if exposure involves an undiluted or more concentrated version of paraquat. The skin that is not intact - has sores, cuts, or a severe rash.

EPA's Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) is the primary set of federal regulations aimed at protecting farmworkers from the hazards of working with highly hazardous pesticides like paraquat. However, over a decade ago, the agency admitted that even when there is full compliance with the WPS, risks to farmworkers still exceed the level of concern.

Our legal experts file claims on behalf of farmworkers who have been affected by paraquat

Parkinson's disease is a progressive nervous system disorder, and while treatment can help during many stages of the illness, patients' conditions inevitably worsen with time. During the final phase of the illness, sufferers are often bedridden or wheelchair-bound and require constant care.

Because paraquat manufacturers such as Syngenta failed to warn farmworkers of the increased risk of developing Parkinson's disease, the families of farmworkers who have died may be eligible for funeral expense reimbursements and financial compensation for the pain that comes with losing a loved one.

If you have been exposed to paraquat anywhere in the United States, as a farmworker, and have since developed Parkinson's disease, contact Environmental Litigation Group, P.C. today. There is no charge to talk with one of our experts and have your claim examined, and all of the information you provide is confidential.