Paraquat is so toxic it has been banned from use in over 30 countries around the world. As citizens of one of the countries still allowing its use, however, Americans must now contend with the news that exposure to the popular herbicide is being investigated as a possible cause of Parkinson’s disease.
A federal judge for the U.S. Eastern District of Missouri has rejected an effort by Swiss chemical company Syngenta to toss out a lawsuit brought by a Missouri pilot and his wife. Henry and Tara Holyfield sued the company, along with Chevron, alleging that Henry’s exposure to paraquat as the herbicide loaded in his crop duster aircraft caused him to develop Parkinson’s disease. The Holyfields contend that paraquat’s labeling gave no indication that the product could be potentially harmful, nor did it provide information about the safe use of the powerful herbicide.
Parkinson’s is a severely crippling disease. From its initial onset, it progressively worsens as it attacks the patient’s nervous system. There is no cure for Parkinson’s, and it is painful not only for the patient who suffers from it but also for their families as they watch while their loved ones endure relentless pain while losing control over most of their motor functions.
Syngenta’s argument in asking for the dismissal was that complying with the Holyfields’ claims would have superseded federal rules that govern the labeling and regulation of the chemical. The judge disagreed however and cited a prior case that established that just because the EPA approves a particular product, that fact that does not make the product’s manufacturer immune from claims over failure to warn.
Six federal courts are currently waiting to hear at least 14 lawsuits that allege a paraquat link to the onset of Parkinson’s for the plaintiff. The CDC has a list of possible ways that one may come into contact with paraquat as well as the symptoms and problems one might encounter after exposure. Some of those effects include heart failure, acute kidney failure, coma, lung scarring, liver failure, seizures, and respiratory failure that could lead to death.
The agency, however, has no information on whether the United States might want to consider adding its name to the list of countries that have banned such a volatile and harmful substance.