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An Illinois man recently filed a new paraquat lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. He claims that after being exposed to the popular herbicide, he developed Parkinson’s disease (PD). He seeks to hold manufacturers Syngenta Crop Protection LLC and Chevron Phillips Chemical Company liable for his injuries.

Plaintiff Exposed to Paraquat for Years; Develops Parkinson’s Disease

Since around 1964, farmers have used paraquat in the U.S. to kill broadleaf weeds and grasses prior to planting or the pre-emergence on more than 100 fields, fruit, vegetable, and plantation crops. They also use it to control weeds in orchards and to desiccate or dry plants prior to harvest. The herbicide has been used historically to maintain golf courses, too.

The plaintiff spent years working as a golf course caddy, and he also lived near the same golf course where paraquat was frequently sprayed. During this time, he claims he was repeatedly exposed to and inhaled, ingested, and/or absorbed paraquat.

As time went on, the plaintiff states that he began suffering neurological injuries consistent with Parkinson’s disease, and was eventually diagnosed with the disease. Until recently, he had no reason to suspect that his diagnosis was connected to his past paraquat exposure.

Can Living By a Golf Course Expose You to Paraquat?

In a 2013 letter to the editor published in the Annals of Neurology, doctors Margaret L. Parrish and Robert E. Gardner asked the question, “Is living downwind of a golf course a risk factor for Parkinsonism?”

The doctors suggested that it is, noting that in their small study of 26 PD patients, 19 of them had lived on or within two miles of a golf course. Though this doesn’t prove a connection between the two, it does raise questions.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), paraquat is now banned from being used around golf courses, playgrounds, schools, and recreational parks. This wasn’t always the case, though, as noted by the plaintiff.

Other studies have shown mixed results. In one, researchers evaluated the use of pesticides on golf courses in the U.S. and their potential health risks. They used a model to assess how these pesticides may be inhaled by nearby populations, and by those using or working on the golf courses. The results showed no evidence of health risk to golfers from inhalation of 37 different pesticides.

Other Studies Have Linked Paraquat to PD

So far, we have limited research on a potential connection between paraquat use on golf courses and any resulting health risks. We do, however, have many studies linking paraquat exposure to PD.

In 2019, for instance, researchers conducted a systematic review of the literature and found that PD occurrence was 25 percent higher in participants exposed to paraquat, with those who were exposed to the herbicide for longer periods having a greater risk.

An earlier study also showed that low-level exposure to pesticides like paraquat and maneb disrupted cells in a way that mimicked the effects of mutations known to cause PD.

The plaintiff brings counts of defective design, failure to warn, negligence, breach of warranties, and violation of state consumer fraud statutes.

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