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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 using the herbicide, he suffered from serious injuries, and seeks both compensatory and punitive damages.

On June 7, 2021, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) ordered all federally filed paraquat lawsuits to be consolidated into the Southern District of Illinois for pre-trial proceedings.

Plaintiff Believes Paraquat Caused His Parkinson’s Disease

Since 1964, paraquat has been used in the United States to kill broadleaf weeds and grasses before the planting or emergence of more than 100 fields, fruit, vegetable, and plantation crops; to control weeds in orchards; for generalized weed control in commercial settings; and to desiccate (dry) plants before harvest. The herbicide is not approved for residential use.

Because of its high level of toxicity, paraquat can be used only by licensed applicators who have been certified in its application. The herbicide injures and kills plants by creating oxidative stress that causes or contributes to the degeneration and death of the plant cells. Paraquat can injure the animal and human cells in the same way, so it must be used with extreme caution.

According to his complaint, the plaintiff was exposed to paraquat from approximately 1984-2000 at various places in northern Illinois. He was licensed to apply paraquat in Illinois and Wisconsin and states that he repeatedly inhaled, ingested, or absorbed paraquat in the course of mixing it, filling tanks with it, and applying it while servicing Commonwealth Edison substations under his employer’s, TruGreen, Inc., contract, throughout northern Illinois.

In 2014, the plaintiff was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. At the time, he had no idea that this disease could be related to his exposure to paraquat. His doctor didn’t tell him it might be, nor did he read any of the articles in newspapers, scientific journals, or other publications that associated paraquat with Parkinson’s disease.

The plaintiff now believes his condition was caused by his exposure to the herbicide.

Studies Link Exposure to Paraquat to Increased Risk for Parkinson’s Disease

For years, scientific studies have linked pesticide exposure to Parkinson’s disease (PD), particularly in farmers and others who are exposed for long periods.

In 2018, researchers from the University of Guelph found 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. Those at genetic risk for the disease were more vulnerable to such effects.

In 2019, researchers conducted a systematic review of the literature and found that PD occurrence was 25 percent higher in participants exposed to paraquat. Results from a subgroup analysis also indicated a higher PD frequency in those who were exposed to the herbicide for longer periods.

In October 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed additional protections to reduce exposure to paraquat but did not suggest banning the herbicide.

 

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