Paraquat based herbicides linked to Parkinson's disease- a timeline of events

By Michael Bartlett

Posted on March 05th, 2021

The incidence of Parkinson's disease increased significantly in 30 years from 1990 to 2020, and we know why - if we pay attention to what the epidemiological evidence is telling us. In recent decades, a flood of scientific research has confirmed that paraquat may cause the onset or accelerate the development of Parkinson's.

Universally recognized as one of the most dangerous and highly toxic chemicals globally, paraquat was widely used as an herbicide, primarily for weed and grass control. For example, in the 1980s, the federal government used paraquat to destroy illegal marijuana cultivation, even though the poison had been banned from national forests because of environmental concerns.

Paraquat is:

  • highly toxic by inhalation
  • harmful in contact with skin
  • irritant to the eyes and respiratory system
  • highly toxic via ingestion, characterized by multiple organ dysfunction, mainly involving the lung, kidney, heart, liver, and central nervous system

The most notorious public health issue linked to the rapidly-acting, nonselective herbicide paraquat is the growing scientific evidence linking the herbicide to Parkinson's disease.

Paraquat and Parkinson's disease - an overview

The First Link - The suspicion that pesticides might increase the risk of developing gene-specific and sporadic Parkinson's disease incidences was first theorized in the 1980s following a wave of drug-induced Parkinson's-like illnesses.

While some epidemiological studies and animal data linking Parkinson's disease with herbicides like paraquat have been inconsistent at first, convincing evidence is continually emerging that demonstrates paraquat exposure greatly increases the risk of developing Parkinson's disease.

  • In 1998 a study published in Neurology showed that farmers are more prone to Parkinson's disease than the general population, and pesticides may be blamed. The risk of developing the disease for farmers was 170 percent greater than that for non-farmers.
  • In a 1999 study in Brain Research, mice treated with paraquat showed decreased proteasome activities. Paraquat systemic administration of paraquat kills a subset of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons in mice. The greater amount of paraquat administered, the greater the number of neuronal cells lost.
  • In 2009, a renowned environmental toxin researcher, Beate R. Ritz, found that paraquat exposure dramatically increased the risk of Parkinson's disease.
  • In 2011, Environmental Health Perspectives, a journal associated with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, found that exposure to paraquat increased the risk of Parkinson's disease by 250%.
  • A 2012 study by the Parkinson's Institute showed that the risks of developing Parkinson's increased 11 times in people who worked with paraquat and also had a specific genetic variation.

While the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States did not find "sufficient evidence" of the paraquat's adverse health effects, the herbicide has already been banned in many countries, including Brazil, Cambodia, Kuwait EU nations.

Even China, the world's largest manufacturer of paraquat, started phasing out the chemical in 2012. In addition, in 2017, Parkinson's organizations in the national, state, and regional levels sent a letter to the EPA urging them to ban paraquat because of its substantial and demonstrated risks.

Contact us today to learn about your legal options, if you were exposed to paraquat and developed Parkinson's

Although often assumed that genetic factors influence the development of Parkinson's disease, studies have shown that genetics is the primary contributor to only 10% of Parkinson's disease cases. Instead, scientists now know that exposure to chemicals in pesticides and herbicides is the major cause of Parkinson's disease.

Workers who used paraquat or entered fields after the herbicide had been applied and bystanders exposed to spray drift may have suffered injuries due to toxic exposure.

We help people with Parkinson's disease and their families to seek legal relief from the chemical manufacturers of paraquat who were allegedly aware of the health risks associated with the herbicide and failed to ensure that workers received adequate protection against the potential side effects of paraquat.

If you were exposed to the herbicide paraquat and have since developed Parkinson's disease, please contact Environmental Litigation Group, P.C. today. Our team of experts has filed claims on behalf of those affected by this dangerous chemical. We'll help you explore your legal options and guide you through the process from start to finish.