Person spraying herbicide while wearing protective gear

Paraquat Litigation Update

In June 2021, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation created a multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the Southern District of Illinois for claims against the manufacturers of Paraquat, a commercial herbicide. The defendants are the leading Paraquat manufacturers in the US: Chevron Corporation and the Syngenta Group.

Creating an MDL is a step forward for the myriad plaintiffs trying to prove in court that exposure to Paraquat is responsible for severe health problems, including Parkinson’s disease. An MDL allows plaintiffs to present a united front against the large defendants and expedite the legal process while still allowing each plaintiff to keep their individual claim.

Research Links Paraquat to Parkinson’s Disease

Multiple studies evidence that exposure to Paraquat can increase a person’s risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. A study by the University of Guelph published in the journal Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology discovered that even small exposures to Paraquat can cause cell mutations similar to those that cause Parkinson’s.

Professor Scott Ryan, a professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology explained that: “People exposed to these chemicals are at about a 250% higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease than the rest of the population.”

The study was conducted by using stem cells from Parkinson’s patients with detectable levels of synuclein, a gene that is a telltale warning sign of the disease. Researchers then used healthy embryonic stem cells and introduced the “risk-associated mutation.” This process allowed the researchers to create dopamine-producing neurons that could then be exposed to Paraquat to observe its effects closely without endangering any subjects. When the cells were exposed to Paraquat and another agrochemical, the energy-producing mitochondria in the cells were unable to move throughout the cell, which created oxidative stress, a deprivation of vital energy, and cellular damage commonly associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Professor Ryan said that: “People with a predisposition for Parkinson’s disease are more affected by those low-level exposures to agrochemicals and therefore more likely to develop the disease. This is one of the reasons why some people living near agricultural areas are at a higher risk.”

A previous 2011 study by Caroline M. Tanner and colleagues published in Environmental Health Perspectives determined that Parkinson’s was 250% more likely among people who had been exposed to Paraquat compared to those who had not been. Another study published in 2017 by the National Institute of Health uncovered that Paraquat’s chemical structure was similar to the neurotoxicant MPTP, which has been acutely linked to Parkinson’s. In the study, mice were exposed to certain levels of MPTP and Paraquat, and they experienced neurodegeneration.

A recent review of multiple studies found that Paraquat was shown to have one of the strongest associations with causing the development of known mechanisms linked to Parkinson’s disease. The review determined that Paraquat is the chemical with the most data linking it to increased risk of developing Parkinson’s. It met Tanner’s conclusion that Paraquat exposure could increase the risk of Parkinson’s by about 250% on average. Although, in 2017, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research announced that people exposed to Paraquat at an early age are 200-600% more likely to develop Parkinson’s.

The American Parkinson Disease Association has said that the people most at risk of Paraquat exposure belong to the following demographics, especially if young:

  • Farmers
  • Farm animal handlers
  • People who live on farms or in rural areas
  • Agricultural professionals who use pesticides or herbicides
  • People who drink well water

How GoldenbergLaw Can Help You

If you were exposed to Paraquat and subsequently developed Parkinson’s disease, you should rely on a legal team that you can count on. Our team of Minnesota Paraquat lawyers at GoldenbergLaw has more than 35 years of experience holding manufacturers responsible for products that harm and disrupt lives. Leave the sleepless nights to us, and contact us today!


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