Paraquat and Parkinson's disease

The link between paraquat and Parkinson’s disease (PD) has been the subject of several studies for decades now, and the evidence is overwhelming. Speculations about the potential association between paraquat and Parkinson’s disease sparked when the toxic herbicide paraquat caused a public health scare in the 70s after it was sprayed over marijuana fields in Mexico.

Individuals who used marijuana that survived the aerial application ended up with lung damage after smoking the plants sprayed with the weed killer. A handful of recent paraquat journal articles also suggest a link between paraquat and Parkinson’s disease, not only in people who have significant exposure to the herbicide but also in those who live near farms where paraquat is being sprayed.

However, after many years and thousands of paraquat lawsuit plaintiffs later, the chemical has not yet been banned in the United States as of writing. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reapproved its use for another 15 years.

Can Paraquat cause Parkinson’s disease?

Yes, paraquat can cause Parkinson’s disease, as suggested by several study findings that investigated paraquat toxicity both in animal and human studies. For instance, a 2009 research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology revealed that paraquat exposure within 1,600 feet of a home leads to an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by up to 75%.

In fact, a report from the National Toxicology Program (NTP) identified paraquat as a viable candidate for systematic review while doing scoping efforts to classify environmental exposures related with PD.

Moreover, in 2017, the Unified Parkinson’s Advocacy Council sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The letter, signed by all members of the council, noted, “Recent research links Paraquat and several other herbicides to the development of Parkinson’s pathology and symptoms.”

In the letter, the council urged the EPA to deny Paraquat’s reregistration and ban the use of the pesticide in the U.S., which as of date, the agency still hasn’t done. Months after the letter was sent, the first Paraquat lawsuit was filed in Illinois against Syngenta and Growmark, manufacturers of the pesticide.

The complaint was filed on behalf of farmers and agricultural workers who developed Parkinson’s disease after pesticide exposure.

Research Shows Paraquat May Cause Parkinson’s

recent study from the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that Parkinson’s disease may be linked to pesticides. The study associated human exposure to paraquat and another pesticide called rotenone with Parkinson’s disease and concluded that the disease was “strongly associated” with the chemicals.

The research says that a growing body of epidemiological evidence suggests pesticides may play a role in Parkinson’s disease (PD) in humans.

It further explained that Parkinson’s was associated with lifetime use of pesticides, with animal studies suggesting that the pesticides Paraquat and Rotenone can cause oxidative stress and block mitochondrial complex.

Paraquat works by producing intracellular molecules that damage cells by causing oxidative stress. Through the study, researchers have associated human exposure to Paraquat and Rotenone with Parkinson’s disease, with the conclusion that the disease “was strongly associated” with the herbicide.

The authors even added that the possibility of being exposed to Paraquat is not exclusive to agricultural workers.

This is supported by epidemiological studies indicating that even people who live near fields where pesticides are being applied can also be negatively affected by these chemicals. One of these is a study published in ScienceDirect, which investigated the association between limb birth defects and pesticide exposure.

It revealed that cases of limb defects increased in areas within 500 meters of a nearby cornfield where pesticides are being used.

Environmental Factors in Parkinson’s Disease

The most common environmental risk factors for Parkinson’s disease include pesticide use, rural living, well water consumption, and farming. Many unsuspecting people, especially farmers and other agricultural workers, might be at risk of those environmental factors, such as being exposed to pesticides and herbicides whose chemicals are present in their environments.

Previous research based on restricted exposure assessment has suggested that Parkinson’s disease (PD) is related to pesticide exposure, according to a study published in PubMed. To assess the relationship between self-reported Parkinson’s disease and pesticide exposure, the authors examined data collected from spouses and licensed private pesticide applicators who took part in the Agricultural Health Study.

The study discovered that among private pesticide applicators, self-reported PD was related to pesticide exposure. The association was clear for the usage of a number of particular pesticides, including the insecticide permethrin and the herbicides paraquat and coumaphos.

How does Paraquat cause Parkinson’s disease?

Paraquat causes Parkinson’s disease by producing intracellular molecules that kill cells through a mechanism known as oxidative stress. This results in nerve cell damage and death in a region of the brain called substantia nigra, which controls body movement.

When these nerve cells called dopaminergic neurons break down or die, they lose the ability to produce a chemical called dopamine, which is also crucial in helping control muscle movement, thus causing Parkinson’s disease. The majority of plaintiffs in the paraquat Parkinson’s lawsuit developed PD after occupational exposure to paraquat.

According to a study published in the journal BioMed Central, Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurological disorder that has genetic susceptibility, aging, and exposure to specific chemicals as risk factors. Recent epidemiological and experimental studies have looked into the role of pesticides, particularly the herbicide paraquat, in the onset of Parkinson’s disease (PD).

The goal of the study is to undertake a thorough analysis of epidemiological studies that have looked into the connection between paraquat exposure and Parkinson’s disease (PD). The systematic review protocol was developed according to the Office of Health Assessment and Translation (OHAT) approach for hazard identification.

What is the Paraquat mechanism of action?

What is the Paraquat mechanism of action

The paraquat mechanism of action involves a process called redox cycling, which is a chemical reaction that generates highly reactive, oxygen-centered free radicals. These oxygen species directly induce cell damage and eventual death.

This rather simplified process constitutes the main mechanism of paraquat toxicity and what paraquat exposure can do to plants and humans alike. While on one hand, the process results in the death of green plants, in humans, it results in the gradual death of nerve cells in the brain responsible for movement, which causes the slowly progressive, neurodegenerative condition Parkinson’s disease.

How long does it take to be impacted by Paraquat exposure to Parkinson’s?

It may take decades before Parkinson’s disease unfolds as a result of paraquat exposure. In one paraquat poisoning lawsuit filed by James Hemker, he claimed that his 2008 Parkinson’s disease diagnosis was a result of his repeated exposure to paraquat from the 1960s to the late 1980s.

Hemker’s claim may just be one of the many, but in his case, it took almost two decades before he was diagnosed with PD. Unfortunately, this is a sad reality for many people who developed Parkinson’s disease after chronic exposure to paraquat.

Because the disease may take years to progress to a point where a diagnosis can be made, most paraquat exposure victims have no way of knowing anymore that the toxic chemical contributed to their condition.

What other diseases does Paraquat cause?

While its association with Parkinson’s disease is one of the main reasons why advocacy groups are calling for a paraquat ban, aside from PD, paraquat is also linked to several other health risks. Other diseases that paraquat can cause are listed below.

  • Lung scarring: Long-term exposure to paraquat may lead to lung scarring or pulmonary fibrosis. This condition makes breathing become increasingly difficult as it progresses.
  • Immunotoxicity: Paraquat can cause adverse effects on the functioning of the immune system. Its immunotoxic effect has been observed in both animal and human studies.
  • Birth defects: Parental exposure to paraquat during the first or second trimester increases the risk for preterm birth and is also linked to numerous birth defects, such as genital malformations.
  • Heart problems: In rare cases, one may survive severe paraquat poisoning, but they will most likely suffer from its long-term health effects, including heart problems. Paraquat may decrease blood flow to the heart and may worsen cardiovascular performance for individuals with existing heart conditions.
  • Kidney damage: Once it enters the body, paraquat first travels to the kidneys. And since it is the main organ that is responsible for excreting toxins like paraquat from the body, the adverse effects of the toxic chemical on the kidney come as no surprise.

What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?

What are the symptoms of Parkinson's disease

While Parkinson’s disease is not fatal, its complications can be serious – this is why it is important to recognize its early signs. The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are listed below.

  • Tremor: Slight shaking or tremor typically begins in a limb, such as the hand or fingers and occurs when your muscles are at rest, as opposed to essential tremors where shaking happens when you are in motion.
  • Slowed movements: Also known in medical terms as bradykinesia, this condition refers to slow and small movements that can make simple tasks more difficult and time-consuming to accomplish.
  • Muscle rigidity or stiffness: One of the main symptoms of PD, rigidity is experienced as tightness in the arms or legs that decreases one’s range of motion. It can occur in the arms, legs, trunk, and even facial muscles.
  • Postural instability: is the inability to maintain balance due to impaired or lost reflexes. This symptom increases the risk of falling and also tends to worsen as the disease progresses.
  • Difficulties with handwriting: Due to muscle control problems that result from changes in the brain, it may become hard for individuals with Parkinson’s disease to write, and their writing may appear cramped or smaller than usual.

What is the treatment for Parkinson’s disease?

The treatment for Parkinson’s disease involves the use of supportive therapies, medications, and surgical procedures (for some people.) Supportive therapies such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech and language therapy help manage PD symptoms and make daily functioning easier for patients.

Medications are also widely used for Parkinson’s treatment, especially in helping control symptoms such as tremors and movement difficulties. The main types of medication prescribed for PD include levodopa, dopamine agonists, and monoamine oxidase-B inhibitors.

While each can manage symptoms dramatically, they have short- and long-term effects that may not be suitable for everyone. Lastly, in some cases, a surgical procedure called deep brain stimulation is used for people with advanced Parkinson’s disease who do not respond well to drug treatment with levodopa.

The surgery involves implanting electrodes into specific areas of the brain. The electrodes send electric currents to the part of the brain affected by Parkinson’s disease, which results in decreased symptoms.

Can you file a lawsuit if you’ve been diagnosed with Parkinson’s due to Paraquat exposure?

Yes, you can file a lawsuit if you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease due to paraquat exposure. In fact, thousands of people across the United States already have. To date, there are more than 1,400 paraquat Parkinson’s lawsuits filed in the multidistrict litigation, and thousands more lawsuits are pending as we speak.

The majority of these plaintiffs worked closely with paraquat – mixing, loading, and spraying the chemical in agricultural and non-agricultural settings for years, until they developed Parkinson’s disease as a result of this significant exposure.

However, the risks of the toxic weed killer are not limited to farmers and other agricultural workers. Evidence exists that people who simply reside in rural areas near farms where paraquat is sprayed have high rates of Parkinson’s disease.

PD is a progressive and debilitating disease that eventually compromises someone’s ability to efficiently function on a day-to-day basis. Needless to say, coping with the condition or caring for a loved one with Parkinson’s can be challenging, isolating, and confusing.

If you or your loved one developed Parkinson’s disease after being exposed to paraquat, you can contact us today, and we will find the perfect paraquat lawyer who can discuss your legal options with you. We, along with our like-minded attorneys, believe that no one deserves to suffer because of the negligence of huge companies. Now is the time to stand up, and we can help you do that.

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