Herbicides are used in agricultural settings to control weeds, vegetation, grass and crops. One of the most widely used in the U.S. is paraquat. It was introduced in the 1960s as an efficient way to manage weeds and plants that became resistant to other pesticides. But unfortunately, there are dangers to using paraquat.
In the U.S. and Louisiana, anyone handling paraquat must be a certified applicator, which means anyone handling paraquat must complete a training program. This training program was developed in conjunction with the EPA and paraquat manufacturers to cover paraquat’s toxicity, consequences of misuse, new label requirements and additional restrictions. If your role in agriculture requires you to use, mix, load or apply paraquat, you must be certified.
Why Is Being Paraquat Certified So Important?
Paraquat is toxic to humans. One sip can be fatal. So what does this mean for agricultural workers who spend their days inhaling paraquat from nearby fields? Or families living in these agricultural areas? Multiple studies have shown that paraquat exposure can put you at a higher risk of Parkinson’s disease and other health issues such as lung damage.
Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the nervous system that can lead to tremors, rigid muscles and slow movement. The symptoms usually start slowly and get worse over time. The onset of Parkinson’s can take six to ten years before a diagnosis is confirmed. Multiple studies on Parkinson’s and paraquat exposure have found that when a person is exposed to paraquat, they are 2.5 more likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
Over time, airborne paraquat droplets are inhaled through the nose and travel directly into the brain. These droplets affect the dopamine receptors by damaging them. Without enough dopamine, nerves that control muscle movement do not work properly. As the disease progresses, costly medications, treatment, physical therapy and surgery can help manage it. However, there is no known cure.
Louisiana Areas of Concern for Paraquat Exposure
In Louisiana, a peer-reviewed, open-access study conducted by LSU researchers was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in 2020. This study found that those diagnosed with Parkinson’s were exposed to two types of herbicides and one pesticide in rural parts of Louisiana, where there is an abundance of pastures, woodlands and forests. The LSU research study monitored those diagnosed with Parkinson’s in Louisiana from 2006 to 2012 based on zip codes and reports from 95 Louisiana hospitals.
The study found that areas where agricultural workers could be at the greatest risk include large parts of Evangeline and Allen Parishes, and in the lower middle of the state, from Beauregard to Iberville Parishes. These Parishes are predominantly farm pasture land and areas of timberland where paraquat may have been used.
Agricultural workers or those who previously worked in Sabine Parish along the Sabine River towards the Texas border and northeast to West Carroll Parish are also at a higher risk of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s. There were even some high-risk areas found in the New Orleans region.
This study highlighted that Parkinson’s is less common in Louisiana, where soybeans, corn, and cotton are grown. This could be attributed to those crops where farmers have changed to using Roundup or herbicide glyphosate made by Monsanto. Roundup is currently under suspicion of being a cancer-causing agent and facing many lawsuits as a result.
Many countries around the world have banned the use of paraquat, but the U.S. continues to allow this product to be used to the detriment of farmworkers’ health.
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and has been exposed to paraquat, know that you have legal rights. The attorneys at Herman, Herman & Katz in New Orleans, Louisiana, are knowledgeable in handling dangerous and defective product cases. We have recovered billions of dollars against manufacturers who made, marketed and sold products that caused harm to those using their products. For more information or a free case review, call us at 844-943-7627 or contact us online.
Jed Cain is a partner with Herman, Herman & Katz, LLC. He has dedicated his career to representing injured folks and their families.