Paraquat Lawsuit Lawyer

If you were exposed to the herbicide Paraquat and have since developed Parkinson’s Disease, please contact Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger today. Our attorneys have filed lawsuits on behalf of those who have been affected by this dangerous chemical. We may be able to help you and your family recover financial compensation for your illness and the effects it has had on your life.

The Walkup paraquat lawsuit attorneys Michael Kelly, Khaldoun Baghdadi and Sara Peters, in association with Korein Tillery of St. Louis, filed the first California lawsuits alleging harm from exposure to the herbicide Paraquat. Paraquat is sprayed both by tractor-drawn rigs and crop-dusting airplanes and helicopters.  These lawsuits allege that long-term exposure to Paraquat causes Parkinson’s disease in agricultural workers as well as people who live near fields where the chemical is applied.

These lawsuits, filed in various California counties have all been consolidated in Contra Costa County by the state’s Judicial Counsel, having been assigned California Judicial Coordination case number JCCP 5031. These cases have been filed against makers and sellers of the herbicide over the last 50 years.   Paraquat is sprayed by tractor-drawn rigs and crop-dusting airplanes and helicopters.

The lawsuits have been filed against Syngenta, Chevron U.S.A, Inc., and other companies that have manufactured, distributed, marketed, licensed, and sold Paraquat in California and other states in the United States, since 1964. They allege that these companies are liable for the following causes of actions:

  •  Strict Products Liability – the companies marketed a defectively-designed product and failed to warn the public of the risk of neurological damage caused by low exposure to Paraquat.
  •  Negligence – the neurological risks of Paraquat use were reasonably foreseeable; the companies had the responsibility to protect people in the communities where paraquat was used from those risks or eliminate those risks through proper warnings or instruction but failed to do so.
  •  Public Nuisance – the companies knew or should have known that the manner in which Paraquat was used would be harmful to the general public.
  •  California Consumer Legal Remedies Act – the companies had actual or constructive knowledge of Paraquat’s risks, but used unfair business practices with consumers, including concealing, suppressing, or omitting to disclose the inadequate research and testing performed.
  • Breach of Implied Warranty of Merchantability – the Paraquat used was not fit for its ordinary purposes.

Paraquat Lawsuit Complaint PDF

What Is Paraquat?  How Is Paraquat Utilized?

Paraquat is a highly toxic chemical used as an herbicide or weed killer. First sold in the United States in the early 1960s, paraquat was used by the United States government and DEA in aerial attacks on Mexican heroin poppy and marijuana fields in the 1970s. It was used for that task because it is a “non-selective” herbicide, which means it kills all green leafy plants on contact.

England based Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) first developed and marketed Paraquat for use as an agricultural tool for killing weeds or for processing crops that do not rely on their leafy parts, like cotton and almonds. ICI and Chevron ultimately reached an agreement to make Chevron the exclusive distributor of Paraquat in the United States. In 1986, this agreement came to an end and ICI (which exists now as a part of the Swiss company Syngenta) began selling paraquat in the U.S. Paraquat has been sold under many brand names including “Ortho,” “Ortho Plus,” and “Gramoxone.” To this day, Syngenta continues to sell paraquat to American farmers.

The American agriculture industry continues to use Paraquat even though it is banned in 32 countries. It has been on the banned substances list in England and throughout the European Union since 2013. Ironically, while Paraquat was produced by Swiss industrial giant manufacturer Syngenta, the use of the herbicide has been banned in Switzerland since 1989. Chinese chemical giant ChemChina purchased Syngenta and announced in 2012 that it was eliminating domestic use of  Paraquat to “safeguard people’s lives.” All of China’s production is now exported.

In the U.S., Paraquat has been used as an alternative to Monsanto’s Roundup. As weeds and pests became more resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup, farmers turned to alternative herbicides to treat their crops.

All Paraquat products are Restricted Use Pesticides (RUPs), meaning only licensed applicators are able to purchase and use the herbicide. All applicators must be “licensed in accordance with EPA regulations and state, territorial and tribal laws.” 

Increased Paraquat Use in the U.S.: Who Is Most at Risk of Exposure?

Despite its ban across the world, Paraquat use in the U.S. has skyrocketed in recent years.   Overall usage of Paraquat, or the “estimated annual agricultural pesticide use”  has more than doubled from 2011 to 2017 (from over 3 million kilograms in to close to 7 million kilograms annually).  People who work with Paraquat or live near areas where it is used heavily remain most at risk of exposure to it – specifically licensed applicators such as farmers or other agricultural workers, farmworkers, farm residents, and farm neighbors.

More Paraquat is used in California than in any other state in the  U.S, especially in the Central Valley, Central Coast and Greater Sacramento regions.  In fact, almost 2 million more kilograms of the herbicide has been applied in California than in the next closest state – Texas –  and nearly 6 million more than the third-highest state, North Carolina.

The following states have the overall highest usage of Paraquat, from 1992 to 2016:

  1.     California – 10,262,736.30 kg
  2.     Texas – 8,498,326.40 kg
  3.     North Carolina – 4,384,698.10 kg
  4.     Illinois – 3,830,541.50 kg
  5.     Kansas – 3,736,690.40 kg
  6.     Indiana – 3,521,468.10 kg
  7.     Georgia – 3,463,475.70 kg
  8.     Arkansas – 3,360,273.9 kg
  9.     Mississippi – 3,013,062.8 kg
  10.     Iowa – 2,995,737.3 kg

Nine of the five top counties that use the most Paraquat are also in California, including all of the top five: Fresno County, Kern County, Kings County, and Tulare County.

Estimated Paraquat Use: Top 30 US Counties

County State Estimated Parquat Use (KG)
Fresno County California   2,027,580.80
Kern County California   1,976,173.50
Kings County California   1,255,401.90
Tulare County California      893,526.20
Merced County California      767,845.30
San Joaquin County California      582,386.10
Madera County California      502,629.50
Stanislaus County California      447,617.10
Grant County Washington      401,038.00
Lynn County Texas      389,666.60
Lubbock County Texas      372,260.80
Gaines County Texas      365,526.90
Yakima County Washington      361,223.30
Hockley County Texas      345,937.30
Dawson County Texas      337,414.90
Terry County Texas      320,581.90
Crosby County Texas      313,878.70
Mississippi County Arkansas      291,762.20
Union County North Carolina      284,563.40
Sussex County Delaware      265,414.40
Bolivar County Mississippi      263,695.00
Lamb County Texas      255,685.20
Washington County Mississippi      234,619.40
Hale County Texas      232,790.20
Benton County Washington      231,429.70
Walla Walla County Washington      228,429.60
Monterey County California      222,869.90
Sunflower County Mississippi      215,119.50
Frederick County Maryland      213,400.60
Yolo County California      212,689.70

 

Effects of Paraquat On Humans

Studies have shown that exposure to the toxic chemicals in Paraquat can increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease.  In fact, as Paraquat use has increased, so has the prevalence rate of Parkinson’s disease. Rates of diagnosing early-onset Parkinson’s disease rose by 107 percent from 2013 to 2017.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) has announced the position that all Americans should be protected from potential exposure to paraquat and that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should ban this dangerous chemical.

Fatal Paraquat poisoning can occur in many forms – including ingestion, inhalation, or other direct contact with the chemical – and results in death 70 percent of the time. Its effects are immediate and irreversible. Although the acute poisonous properties of Paraquat are well-known (drinking a teaspoon of Paraquat can easily kill an adult), exposure to mist or microscopic droplets of Paraquat can also devastate the human nervous system.

How Does Paraquat Cause Parkinson’s Disease?

Paraquat kills plants by causing “oxidative stress”: breaking oxygen atoms free from the molecules of living cells it comes in contact with, destroying those cells on a molecular level. When a person breathes Paraquat mist, or Paraquat is absorbed through the skin, it travels through the lungs, the olfactory bulb (the part of your body that drives your sense of smell), the skin, or the stomach and damages a part of the brain called the substantia nigra pars compacta.

The substantia nigra pars compacta create dopamine – a neurotransmitter. When animals are exposed to Paraquat, the number of dopamine-creating cells in their brains is depleted. Researchers believe the same effect occurs when humans breathe or absorb Paraquat.

In humans, the reduction of dopamine-creating cells is one of the hallmarks of Parkinson’s disease. Dopamine is one of the compounds the brain uses to communicate messages within the brain and to other parts of the human body as a whole. When these dopamine-generating neurons are killed, the body is unable to maintain healthy levels of dopamine, confounding many of the brain’s functions.

What Is Parkinson’s Disease? What Are the Stages & Symptoms?

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative brain disorder, caused by the loss of neurons and the neurotransmitter dopamine they produce. While it is not clear what exactly leads to the death of those cells, research shows that both environment and genes play an indefinite role. It is important to note that while treatment can help in mitigating the effects of the disease, there is no cure yet.

There are five stages of Parkinson’s disease, and with each stage, the progression of the disease will become more apparent.

  • Stage One: In the first stage, people will experience mild symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, such as a tremor on one side of the body, or a subtle change in how they walk. However, at this stage, symptoms do not disrupt their day-to-day life or tasks.
  • Stage Two: At the second stage, symptoms worsen, and the tremor may occur on both sides – complicating and prolonging regular tasks.
  • Stage Three: The third stage is the mid-stage when people lose their sense of balance and move significantly slower. Falls happen more often, and tasks such as changing clothes and eating, feel like an obstacle.
  • Stage Four: At stage four, symptoms become debilitating and people will not be able to live alone, as they will require assistance in their regular day-to-day tasks and a walker.
  • Stage Five: In the fifth stage, people experience advanced symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, including stiffness in the legs that prevents them from walking or standing. They will require the services of a 24-hour care facility.

The four primary motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include: tremor, rigidity, bradykinesia or slow movement, and postural instability or difficulty balancing. All of these symptoms do not have to be present to diagnose someone with Parkinson’s disease. In general, and especially in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, only one or two symptoms may appear. In most cases, symptoms will develop gradually over time.

Tremor: The resting tremor can start in one hand, foot, or leg, or in other areas of the body, including the jaw or mouth.

Rigidity: Rigidity describes the stiffness or inflexibility of the muscles, tightness in the limbs or torso.

Bradykinesia: With bradykinesia, fine motor control diminishes, and movements become slower (such as blinking). This can show up in the lack of facial expression, in the handwriting, or in the challenges of conducting day-to-day tasks such as buttoning a shirt.

Postural instability: Postural instability is more noticeable in later stages and refers to impaired balance – feeling unstable while standing and at a heightened risk of falling.

Other motor symptoms can include walking or gait difficulties (taking small, shuffling steps), changes in the voice, or dystonia (involuntary muscle contractions). Non-motor symptoms can range from a reduced sense of smell to excessive sweating, significant weight loss, and cognitive changes.

Legislation to Ban Paraquat

In July 2019, Protect Against Paraquat of 2019 (H.R. 3817) was introduced into Congress, with the goal of ending Paraquat sale and use in the United States. Two years earlier, the Unified Parkinson’s Advocacy Council wrote a letter to the EPA, asking that the EPA deny re-registration of the herbicide due to its harmful effects on human health. In the letter, they also provided specific findings and recent studies that show the link between low-level exposure to paraquat and an increase in developing Parkinson’s disease.

Studies have shown that people who were exposed to Paraquat are more at risk of developing Parkinson’s disease later in life. In addition, the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease can increase by 200 to 600 percent for young adults or teenagers who were exposed to Paraquat, depending on their length of exposure. In an Agricultural Health Study, farmers were found 200 percent more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease if they had used paraquat.

EPA Regulatory Filing on Paraquat

The EPA does not deny the dangers associated with Paraquat, but acknowledges that it is highly toxic – that “one small sip can be fatal and there is no antidote.” In March 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in its regulatory filing that they would be further exploring the possible health risks associated with Paraquat. In the announcement, the agency said, “There is a large body of epidemiology data on Paraquat dichloride use and Parkinson’s disease.”

Every fifteen years, the EPA reviews all pesticides to make sure that they are meeting federal safety standards. EPA commenced its review on Paraquat in 2017, and in October 2019, they released the draft human health and ecological risk assessments – open for public comment. In October 2020, EPA released the Proposed Interim Decision. The EPA did not deny or approve of the use of Paraquat in its Proposed Interim Decision but proposed new safety measures to limit exposure to Paraquat and mitigate health risks.

Previously, this included specialized training for certified users of paraquat, a safety awareness campaign, and new labels and product packaging that highlight the dangers of Paraquat. More recent measures have also been added, such as requiring enclosing cabs or PF10 respirators in the area and not allowing aerial application for almost all uses and use sites. The documents generated in the EPA review can be found in docket number EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0855 located at www.regulations.gov.

Why Should I file a lawsuit?

A Paraquat lawsuit can help you or your loved one recover compensation for the injuries and financial damages you have suffered.  Depending upon your situation, this can include:

  • Past and future medical expenses for treatment, equipment, nursing services, medication and monitoring,
  • Lost wages and loss of earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium
  • Funeral expenses, if the exposure led to the death of a loved one.

While financial compensation cannot prevent or reverse a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease, it can be extremely important in helping you or your loved one’s quality of life.  Parkinson’s Disease typically comes with significant lifetime costs, especially if the diagnosis comes at an early age.  Additionally, manufacturers and corporations that manufacture and use dangerous chemicals like Paraquat need to be held accountable for the damage they cause.  A civil lawsuit is often the only way to do so.

Contact a Paraquat Attorney in San Francisco Today!

If you have been exposed to Paraquat and subsequently developed Parkinson’s disease or signs of ongoing developing Parkinson’s, you may have legal rights that have been violated. The law firm of Walkup Melodia Kelly and Schoenberger is available today for a free, no-obligation Paraquat lawsuit consultation.

The lawsuits filed by Walkup Melodia Kelly and Schoenberger allege that Syngenta, Chevron, and others involved in the process of manufacturing, marketing, and distributing Paraquat are liable for causing or contributing to the development of Parkinson’s disease in citizens living in agricultural areas of the Sacramento, San Joaquin,  and  Central Valleys. Clients or associate counsel wishing more information regarding the Paraquat litigation or California state judicial counsel coordinated special proceeding PARAQUAT CASES JCCP 5031 should contact Mike Kelly, Khaldoun Baghdadi or Sara Peters