If you developed Parkinson’s disease, the toxic chemical paraquat (dipyridylium) might have been a factor. Paraquat can have other lethal consequences, depending on the method of exposure. This blog will provide you with information about the dangers of paraquat and your legal options if you developed adverse health effects.
Although it is a weedkiller, paraquat is not an ingredient in the weedkiller RoundUp, made by Monsanto, or in Agent Orange, a tactical herbicide that was used by the military. It’s something entirely different.
How Paraquat Can Harm the Human Body
Paraquat is a dangerous chemical that can cause severe (even fatal) harm to humans. The conditions paraquat causes depends on the method of exposure. As we’ll explain here, someone who accidentally swallowed the compound would have different health effects than someone who touched it.
Skin Exposure to Paraquat
If paraquat touches your skin, especially if you have an open cut, the toxic chemical can enter your body and cause paraquat poisoning. MedlinePlus warns that the symptoms of paraquat poisoning are:
- Vomiting, which can include vomiting blood
- Throat burns and severe throat pain
- Shock from very low blood pressure
- Difficulty breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Stomach pain
These symptoms could also occur with accidental ingestions or breathing in paraquat.
After exposure, many people have developed Parkinson’s disease, a devastating brain disorder with no known cure. As the National Institute on Aging explains, Parkinson’s disease can cause a person to lose control of how or when they move parts of their body.
They develop tremors (uncontrollable shaking) in their hands, head, jaw, arms, or legs. Muscle weakness, slowed movement, and impaired balance and coordination are also hallmarks of Parkinson’s.
These symptoms get worse over time, eventually making it difficult for the sufferer to walk or talk. Parkinson’s can also cause memory issues, depression, trouble sleeping, fatigue, and mental and behavioral changes.
Swallowing paraquat can cause a chemical burn that burns a hole through the esophagus or creates sudden and severe inflammation in the chest, either of which can quickly lead to death. Any part of the body the paraquat touches can get damaged, including the lining of the mouth, the intestines, and the stomach.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tried to warn the public of the dangers of paraquat in its article, Paraquat Dichloride: One Sip Can Kill. Accidental poisoning by paraquat happens more often than you might think. There were more than 1,400 reported accidental paraquat poisonings from 1998-2009, and despite many of these people getting immediate, aggressive treatment, 50 people died from the poisoning.
Although paraquat is not supposed to be accessible to the general public, many of these accidental poisonings happened because a licensed user gave some of the chemical to friends or someone stored some of the chemical in a beverage container. Unsuspecting people can swallow paraquat and suffer the consequences immediately.
Breathing in Paraquat
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that immediate lung damage can result from breathing air that contains paraquat. Respiratory failure can be fatal.
Also, once paraquat enters the body, whether by inhaling, swallowing, or direct contact with skin, the lethal chemical gets distributed throughout the entire body, causing toxic chemical reactions that damage many organs, including the kidneys, lungs, and liver. A person can die of heart failure, liver failure, kidney failure, or lung scarring within hours to days.
If a person breathes in paraquat in smaller amounts for long periods of time, they can develop pulmonary fibrosis that can make breathing difficult. Paraquat can cause extensive scars in the lungs, reducing a person’s quality of life as well as their life expectancy.
Prognosis After Paraquat Injury
There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease and no specific treatment for paraquat poisoning. All that medical professionals can do is try to provide relief from the symptoms and treat the complications.
The prognosis for the patient depends on how severe their exposure was. Unless a person gets immediate medical care, they are likely to die from swallowing paraquat. Even then, as the EPA article said, a sip can kill you. People who breathe in or swallow paraquat can suffer permanent lung damage.
People Who Are at the Most Risk of Paraquat Exposure
Paraquat is one of the most commonly used herbicides in the world. It has been in use since 1961. People who use herbicides that contain paraquat are most at risk of having the dangerous chemical get on their skin and enter their bodies.
People who currently work or formerly worked on commercial farms could be at a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease or other damage to their health from paraquat exposure. Agricultural workers face this risk, too.
Brand Names of Products That Still Contain Paraquat
Some of the brand names under which paraquat gets sold have either “para” or “quat” in their name, but not all of them. There are many brands of paraquat in the United States, including the following:
- Tigris™ Paraquat 3SL
- Cyclone™ SL 2.0
- Parazone® 3SL
- Gramoxone® SL
- Para–Shot 3.0
- Purgatory™ 3 SL
- Gramoxone Inteon®
- Helmquat 3SL
- Gramoxone® SL 3.0
This list does not include every possible brand name of a product that contains paraquat.
Who Can Legally Use Paraquat?
Currently, United States regulatory officials classify paraquat as only for “restricted commercial use,” and people have to get a license to use this highly toxic product, according to MedlinePlus.
Of course, people do not always follow the rules, and accidents happen. Some people give paraquat to their friends to use or store it in inappropriate containers.
European countries have banned the use of paraquat for years, but some other countries use the chemical freely and often without the restrictions or warnings that accompany the compound in the United States.
Get Legal Assistance After Being Exposed to Paraquat
If you think that you or a loved one suffered harm because of exposure to paraquat,
Whitley Law Firm is here to help you. We pursue the at-fault party aggressively while treating our clients with compassion and respect. You can reach out to us today for a free consultation at (919) 785-5000.