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A farmer sprays a potato plantation with paraquat
Herman, Herman & Katz, LLC

Thousands of people have filed lawsuits alleging that paraquat causes serious illness. New findings have led to more questions about the herbicide’s safety as these paraquat lawsuits work their way through the judicial system. One recent study found a link between paraquat and thyroid cancer, and the EPA is reviewing its stance on the herbicide after being petitioned by multiple environmental and health organizations.  

The Dangers of Paraquat

Paraquat dichloride is one of the most commonly used herbicides in the United States. Farmers and agricultural workers favor it because it’s inexpensive and highly effective against weeds and grasses. Paraquat is also extremely poisonous, and only licensed applicators can use the herbicide. Workers must wear coveralls, gloves, and protective eyewear — one sip is toxic enough to kill, and brief short-term exposure can cause digestive problems. As a result, it’s banned in many places worldwide, including the European Union. 

There are several risks that long-term paraquat exposure brings. Studies have shown that agricultural workers exposed to paraquat are 250% more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that causes debilitating health complications. There is no cure for the degenerative condition, which often leads to a shortened lifespan. Scientists aren’t sure why paraquat leads to Parkinson’s, but the herbicide can cause oxidative stress, which is associated with a higher risk of Parkinson’s disease. 

While paraquat can cause other health problems, Parkinson’s is one of the most prominent. Many existing paraquat lawsuits against the herbicide manufacturers are from people who got sick with Parkinson’s disease after exposure. The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and other organizations dedicated to Parkinson’s awareness have repeatedly asked the EPA to ban paraquat in the United States.

Paraquat Linked To Thyroid Cancer

The connection between paraquat and Parkinson’s is clear, but another potential illness has emerged. A recent study found a link between pesticide exposure and thyroid cancer. The researchers examined thyroid cancer cases and compared them with pesticide exposure. They found ten pesticides associated with increased cancer risk, including paraquat. The study found that some herbicides can change thyroid hormone production, making thyroid cancer more likely. Additionally, paraquat is mutagenic, which can cause genetic mutation.

Thyroid cancer is rare but has become more common in recent years. Knowing potential risk factors can help with efforts to prevent the disease. The researchers concluded that more research is needed to entirely confirm their findings relating to pesticide exposure. Still, the current evidence corroborates the consensus that paraquat is detrimental to human health. 

EPA Paraquat Renewal Review

Lawmakers have tried and failed to pass legislation banning paraquat. The EPA could prohibit the herbicide from being sold but hasn’t done so. The agency released an interim decision last year with stricter regulations limiting how the herbicide can be sprayed and adding buffers for residential areas. However, the interim decision said there was no clear link between paraquat and Parkinson’s disease or cancer. In response, several advocacy groups filed a petition in federal court asking the EPA to reconsider its decision. The petition challenged the EPA’s findings and said that the government had fallen short of the guidelines outlined in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIRFA). Specifically, the law requires the government to show that herbicides won’t cause “unreasonable adverse effects” on human health. 

The EPA asked the court to grant a voluntary remand and said it would reexamine its stance on paraquat. The agency could ban all uses of the herbicide in a massive win for environmental groups. Regulators could also decline to add further restrictions to the sale and distribution of paraquat. The problems associated with paraquat continue to mount, but the herbicide boasts a global market worth hundreds of millions of dollars. 

If you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s or thyroid cancer after paraquat exposure, you must talk to a law firm that handles paraquat cases. Our Herman Herman & Katz attorneys are ready to answer any questions about potential legal action. Call 844-943-7626 or contact us online for a free case review.

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