By Treven Pyles
Posted on March 12th, 2021
Pesticides sprayed on crops become airborne during application and can drift to distance. Breathing in "paraquat drift" when the wind spreads droplets of the chemical from the crops to neighboring communities can lead to Parkinson's disease. We help residents living near paraquat-treated agricultural lands to file a claim.
Paraquat drift is an insidious threat to human health and ecosystems around agricultural areas where these harsh chemicals are used to kill annual and perennial weeds. The biggest risk from paraquat drift is those living, working, or attending schools near commercial farms that employ elevated spraying equipment or crop duster planes to apply paraquat to crops and fields.
Children are especially vulnerable to these pesticides, given that their young bodies are less able to metabolize toxic substances within their systems. Studies have shown that the risk of developing Parkinson's disease can increase by 200 to 600 percent for people exposed to paraquat at a younger age, particularly in their teen or young adult years, depending on their length of exposure.
The likelihood of becoming ill from exposure to paraquat depends on several factors, including:
According to the nonprofit Pesticide Action Network (PAN), 95-98 percent of applied pesticides miss their intended mark, reaching nearby communities, wildlife, waterways, and soil instead. Besides this "spray drift," PAN also warns of so-called "volatilization drift," whereby pesticides can volatilize - form a vapor - for hours or days after application, allowing them to travel through the air and deposit away from the target area.
Even the most cautious and responsible paraquat sprayer cannot control what happens to the micro-drops the moment they are released from his plane or tractor. When conditions are right, these fine spray droplets can end up, for example, settling on the skin of someone who happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Residents living near agricultural farms growing food crops experience elevated rates of chronic diseases; this is the conclusion from a recent report summarizing 35 peer-reviewed medical studies on this topic over the past three decades. Scientists believe the increased rates of these fatal illnesses occur from pesticides applied to food crops, evaporating into the atmosphere.
Fine spray droplets remain suspended on air currents for long periods of time and can be carried far outside the agricultural area. Several medical conditions were found to occur at higher rates among families living close to agriculture. This included higher rates of:
Pesticides sprayed on agricultural land and urban areas become airborne during application and can drift to different distances and move up to higher altitudes, thousands of kilometers away. To exemplify, a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2009 revealed that exposure to paraquat within 1,600 feet of a home increased the risk of Parkinson's disease by 75 percent.
Parkinson's disease, which affects an estimated 60,000 Americans each year, is a progressive and incurable disease that involves the destruction of brain cells that produce dopamine, an important message-carrying chemical linked with movement. The disease starts with a barely noticeable tremor and slowly worsens over time; patients will require a wheelchair and may be bedridden. There is no cure for Parkinson's disease, but medication is available to help patients deal with their symptoms and maintain the quality of life.