Paraquat products put tank fillers’ health at high risk of developing Parkinson's disease

By Shaniqua Williams

Posted on March 12th, 2021

Pesticide exposure is linked to many health issues, including but not limited to reproductive problems, diabetes, cancer, and neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease. Unfortunately, too many employees in the agriculture sector, including tank fillers, are regularly exposed to highly toxic pesticides, such as paraquat.

Paraquat has been used for decades to control weeds and invasive grasses for more than 100 crops - the most common being corn, soybeans, cotton, and vineyard grapes, among others.

Certain farm pesticide use activities are riskier than others; for example, pouring an undiluted pesticide into the spray tank is riskier than walking into the treated field to scout for insects. Exposure to the concentrate is more likely to cause personal health effects than contact with the treated crop.

The lack of adequate personal protective equipment leads to increased absorption of pesticides into the body. The route of entry into the body also impacts the toxic effect. There are three main routes of human exposure to pesticides:

  • dermally - by absorption of chemicals through the skin;
  • orally - through ingestion;
  • inhalation - by absorption through the mucous membrane of the mouth, throat, and lungs.

Paraquat exposure and the risk of Parkinson's disease among tank fillers

Tank fillers are those persons who directly handle pesticides, e.g., perform tasks in the application of the pesticide operating a knapsack and spraying the pesticide unto the crop. They are at especially high risk of coming into direct contact with paraquat - the non-selective herbicide widely used in commercial farming.

Initially targeted for use in various weed control programs, paraquat is being used more widely on preventing planting acres, as a burndown, especially before soybeans, and as a harvest aid, particularly in legume crops.

Over the past two decades, researchers have stepped up their examination of the effects of paraquat exposure on humans, and specifically the risk of Parkinson's disease. The way paraquat works is to produce intracellular molecules that damage cells by causing oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction.

Many epidemiological studies concluded that Parkinson's disease is strongly associated with paraquat exposure. As a tank filler, you are most likely to be dangerously exposed to paraquat when mixing since handling the concentrated form is highly hazardous:

  • if you splash liquid concentrates on your skin or in your eyes;
  • if you spill formulated product on your clothing where they can soak through to the skin;
  • if you breathe particles from highly concentrated powders, granules, or dust;
  • if you contaminate your hands and then unintentionally carry the pesticide to your mouth when eating, or just rubbing your face.

The level of risk associated with handling paraquat concentrates is lessened if the tank filler wears a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, and goggles. In addition, using a transfer hose to move the pesticide directly from the container to the application equipment is a significantly safer procedure than pouring.

Call us if you were exposed to paraquat as a tank filler and subsequently received a Parkinson's disease diagnosis

Paraquat exposure can result in devastating health consequences for those exposed to the toxic pesticide, particularly tank filers and applicators, who work with it regularly. In addition, these victims are entitled to the full face value of their economic losses, mostly medical bills and lost wages.

Licensed tank fillers seeking to hold crop-protection product manufacturers liable for their Parkinson's disease diagnosis and the impact it has on their life should contact our team of experts for quality legal assistance.