Paraquat, a commonly used herbicide in the U.S. and around the world, has been the focus of growing concern over its potential link to negative health effects, including Parkinson’s disease (PD). Recent studies have suggested that people exposed to the herbicide may have a higher risk of PD, particularly those who were exposed to it for long periods.
Paraquat can affect human cells the same way it does plant cells. It creates free radicals and oxidative stress, damaging cells and causing cell death. It is so toxic to humans that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has restricted its use to only those who have undergone specific training to become licensed applicators. During certification training, individuals learn about the toxicity of the herbicide, as well as the consequences of misuse. Paraquat is one of the most widely used herbicides in the world. It is also one of the most dangerous.
Scientists have long known that paraquat, often referred to as Gramoxone, is acutely toxic. Paraquat is so toxic, in fact, that a single sip of the herbicide can kill an adult. But in recent years, evidence has accumulated showing that repeated exposure to paraquat in low doses may be linked to the development of Parkinson’s disease. According to one study, exposure to paraquat increases the risk of Parkinson’s by 150 percent..
Numerous scientific studies have linked paraquat to Parkinson’s. A large 2011 study of U.S. farmers found that those who used paraquat were twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease as those who didn’t use the chemical. Other research has found that cumulative exposure over long periods increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s. Data published by Louisiana State University shows that a person’s zip code and proximity to cropland where paraquat is applied correlates with the risk of developing Parkinson’s.
Scientists believe that a deficit of the neurotransmitter dopamine causes Parkinson’s. Studies have demonstrated that paraquat can kill dopamine-producing nerve cells in the brain. Inhaling paraquat, which could happen if workers come into contact with aerosolized droplets during crop spraying, gives it a direct pathway to the brain, say researchers at the University of Rochester. However, paraquat could also end up in the brain after ingestion or skin exposure. The CDC notes that, once paraquat enters the body, it is distributed to all areas of the body.
Farmers and agricultural workers who work directly with and around paraquat are at the greatest risk of being exposed to paraquat. Exposure is most likely to occur in the following ways:
Exposure risks are not limited to people involved in agriculture, though. Evidence also suggests that paraquat can drift from the application site to nearby communities. Thus, people living in agricultural areas may be exposed to paraquat that is applied to crops. Paraquat may contaminate ground or well water and even contaminate fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains that are sold to the public.
Parkinson’s disease doesn’t develop immediately after your exposure to paraquat; it’ll take some time for the condition to fully progress. Fortunately, the court understands this, and those who are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease after paraquat exposure can file lawsuits—even if their exposure occurred years in the past. There are also state laws that can factor into your case, so it’s best to speak with one of Heaviside Reed Zaic's attorneys for more information as soon as you develop the condition.
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