Is There a Link Between Paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease?

Long nozzle spraying Paraquat on weeds

You might have heard in the media that Paraquat and Parkinson’s disease (PD) may be linked. But what exactly is Paraquat, and is there a definitive link? If you’ve been exposed to Paraquat and then developed Parkinson’s, what should you do next? Let’s dig into exactly what’s going on here.

What Is Paraquat?

Paraquat is a widely used commercial herbicide and weed killer in the United States. It’s sold under a variety of brand names, including Gramaxone, Parazone, and Quik-Quat. A non-selective, quick-acting herbicide, Paraquat has been available since 1962. Its popularity took a hit after the introduction of Roundup in the 1970s, but after widespread news of health concerns related to that product, many people switched to Paraquat products.

What Is Parkinson’s Disease?

You may be somewhat familiar with Parkinson’s disease due to actor Michael J. Fox’s very public battle with the condition. It’s a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. In the early stages, symptoms may be barely noticeable, but they tend to worsen over time. There are a variety of treatments to help improve symptoms, but there is no cure. Depending on the stage and severity, people with Parkinson’s may experience:

  • Tremors
  • Muscle stiffening
  • Loss of unconscious movements such as blinking
  • Changes in speech patterns
  • Difficulty writing
  • Slowed movement
  • Trouble chewing or swallowing
  • Sleep disorders
  • Bladder or bowel issues

Paraquat in Parkinson’s Research

Along with a pesticide known as Rotenone, Paraquat is routinely used to induce Parkinson’s disease for studies in animals, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation. The Foundation has repeatedly called for its ban in the United States based on strong scientific links between Paraquat and Parkinson’s disease. However, in 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided to reapprove Paraquat for another 15 years.

Paraquat Bans

Due to concerns about its toxicity and risk for long-term health effects, Paraquat is banned in 32 countries around the world, including the European Union as a whole. But in the United States, the herbicide remains common. The only restriction in this country is that it must be applied by, or under the supervision of, a licensed applicator. This means that you won’t be able to buy and use Paraquat yourself, but your landscaping professional could choose to use it. Or it could be used at the local park and other green spaces where you and your family spend time in nature.

Most Common Uses of Paraquat

Paraquat is most commonly used on crops to prevent weeds and invasive grasses from damaging them. More than 100 crops are regularly treated with the chemical, including but not limited to:

  • Alfalfa
  • Soybeans
  • Corn
  • Cotton
  • Vineyards

The chemical is used in all 50 states, but is particularly common in the South and Midwest, including such states as:

  • Illinois
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Alabama
  • Kentucky

Surprisingly, despite California’s relatively restrictive environmental protection laws, Paraquat is also commonly used in that state.

Most Likely Routes of Paraquat Exposure

Due to the restrictions surrounding its use, you are relatively unlikely to come into contact with liquid Paraquat, which is highly toxic. If you do, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends immediately removing any contaminated clothing and sealing it in a double layer of plastic before turning it over to emergency personnel for disposal. You’ll need to immediately shower with large amounts of soap and thoroughly clean any eyeglasses, jewelry, or other exposed items. If you accidentally ingest the product, or if you have any skin or eye irritation following exposure, seek medical attention immediately.

More commonly, people are exposed to previously applied and dried Paraquat in the environment. Besides professionals who regularly work with the product, those who are most likely to be exposed to Paraquat include:

  • Farmers and their families
  • People who are regularly exposed to farm animals
  • Those living in rural areas
  • People who get their water from wells rather than municipal water systems

For Americans living in urban or suburban areas, exposure could come from visiting local green spaces. Another possible route of exposure is your nearest national wildlife refuge. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, more than 350,000 pounds of agricultural pesticides, including Paraquat, were used across 363,000 acres of refuges in 2018. And more than 100 of these refuges are 25 miles or less from major American cities with populations of over 250,000. To protect both wildlife and humans, the Center is calling for a ban on these chemicals within the refuges.

Research into Paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease

Many research studies have been conducted on the link between Parkinson’s and agricultural herbicides and pesticides. According to the American Parkinson Disease Association, these reports repeatedly show that while several products may increase risks, there is a particularly strong link between Paraquat and Parkinson’s. Those who are exposed to Paraquat may be at three times higher risk for Parkinson’s disease than the general public.

What Should I Do if I Develop Parkinson’s After Exposure to Paraquat?

There is a growing number of lawsuits across the United States filed on behalf of people who developed Parkison’s disease after being exposed to Paraquat. The evidence only grows stronger and stronger, so it makes sense to consider this option if you or someone you love is in this situation.

The first step is to gather documentation. You’ll want to get your diagnosis in writing, and collect as much information as possible about where, when, and how you may have been exposed to Paraquat. It’s okay if you don’t know for sure, though, as a skilled attorney can help you through this process.

Next, you will want to submit your information for a free case evaluation. Not every case is right for a lawsuit, but only an experienced attorney can help you make this determination. If you do file suit, your lawyer will be by your side every step of the way.

At Cooney & Conway, we have the experience and compassion to guide you through the process of receiving compensation for your Paraquat-related Parkinson’s diagnosis. To get started, fill out our free case evaluation today.