However, it may be a good idea to use natural or chemical alternatives to paraquat with relatively good crop safety for your weed management, since paraquat has not only been linked with paraquat poisoning, but also Parkinson’s disease.
Why Is Paraquat Dangerous?
Paraquat, an herbicide labeled for use on various crops, is used in agricultural production for purposes such as citrus weed control. It quickly kills broadleaf weeds and emerged grass. However, the attributes which make this deadly pesticide deadly to vegetation also make it deadly to humans.
In fact, it is so deadly than the Environmental Protection Agency has made it so only certified pesticide applicators can apply it. It is so deadly that its use in suicides is common enough that The Centre for Pesticide Suicide Prevention advocates for a paraquat ban to prevent people from committing suicide with it.
Paraquat is so toxic to humans that a single sip of it can kill. Ingestion of the highly hazardous herbicide can lead to severe lung damage, acute respiratory distress syndrome and death – the mortality rate of paraquat poisoning is 60 to 90 percent.
Paraquat kills plants because it is an oxidant which produces reactive oxygen species (ROS). When in the presence of oxygen, its production of ROS causes an unending cycle which inhibits photosynthesis and induces necrosis.
It is paraquat’s tendency to produce ROS when in the presence of oxygen, which is plentiful in human cells, which makes it dangerous to humans as well.
Paraquat has been linked with Parkinson’s disease. Its production of ROS leads to oxidative stress which kills dopaminergic neurons in the brain. These neurons are responsible for producing dopamine, which our motor system requires to function. When too many of these neurons are killed, our motor system no longer has enough dopamine to function properly, and the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are the result.
Paraquat has been linked by numerous scientific studies with Parkinson’s disease:
- A 1999 study found dopaminergic neurons are killed by paraquat.
- A 2002 study found dopaminergic neurons are killed by paraquat.
- A 2004 study found oxidative stress is caused by paraquat, which kills brain neurons.
- A 2009 study found Parkinson’s risk is more than doubled by paraquat.
- Another study from 2009 also found the same thing.
- A 2011 study found Parkinson’s risk is increased by 2.5 times by paraquat.
- A 2011 study found dopaminergic neurons are killed by paraquat.
- Another 2011 study found the same thing.
- A 2012 study found Parkinson’s risk is increased by 1.36 times by paraquat.
- A 2013 study found Parkinson’s risk is increased by around two times by paraquat.
- Researchers, in 2016, discovered “strong” evidence linking Parkinson’s disease with paraquat.
- A 2017 study found dopaminergic neurons are killed by paraquat.
- A 2017 study found Parkinson’s risk is increased by 1.54 times by paraquat.
- A 2018 study found Parkinson’s risk is increased by 1.64 times by paraquat.
- A 2018 study found brain neurons are killed by paraquat.
- A 2019 study found dopaminergic neurons are killed by paraquat.
- Researchers discovered in 2019 that Parkinson’s risk is significantly increased by paraquat.
Paraquat exposure often occurs while people are filling spraying equipment or mixing the herbicide. It can also occur due to spray drift, which is when the herbicide drifts in the wind. Paraquat also binds to plant nutrients like ammonium and potassium, so it can bind to soil and end up in soil water.
Despite being so dangerous, paraquat is not banned in the United States, even though a Pesticide Action Network UK study found that paraquat-free agriculture is feasible and would not lead to a loss of productivity. However, other countries have banned paraquat, such as China, Thailand, Taiwan, Peru, Malaysia, Chile and Brazil.
Paraquat can only be used by certified pesticide applicators. This is because the EPA classifies all herbicides which contain paraquat as restricted use products. Restricted use products have the potential to lead to adverse environmental and health effects when used without the right precautions.
Certification for pesticide applicators happens at the local, state or tribal level. This depends on where chemicals are being applied. If you wish to apply paraquat in multiple jurisdictions, you need to get certified in every area you operate in. People can also pursue commercial federal or private pesticide applicator certification.
Restrictions regarding the use of paraquat include:
- Only certified pesticide applicators can use paraquat
- Those who use paraquat can’t store, transport or move it in beverage or food containers
- Applicators can’t use the herbicide near playgrounds, golf courses, recreational parks, schools or home gardens
- Paraquat users can’t store it around or in residential buildings
- Paraquat users need to securely store the herbicide to prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing it
The Paraquat Human Health Mitigation Decision was issued by the EPA in 2016. 2021 saw additional regulations be issued, which restrict more application methods and contain safety requirements for those exposed to paraquat. Actions like these seek to increase the public’s knowledge of the possible risks linked with the herbicide and provide safer usage guidelines.
The logistics and costs of the proper use and storage of paraquat, coupled with the high risks associated with the herbicide, have led to many farmers seeking paraquat alternatives. In addition, ongoing litigation has led to concern regarding a possible future paraquat ban.
Natural Paraquat Alternatives
There are natural ways to go about the business of weed control, including:
Weeds require a warm soil bed and light to thrive. Mulch prevents weeds since they don’t have the power to push through the mulch.
If you already have weeds, remove them before you apply mulch. Once it’s time to apply your mulch, you should spread a layer of mulch which is three inches thick to any areas necessary to prevent the seeds of weeds from germinating. A three inch layer is usually sufficient to prevent weed roots’ sprouting.
Mulch, in addition to preventing weed growth, prevents soil from getting too dry and can reduce your watering requirements by around 50 percent.
Using Boiling Water
This is a simple method which can be very effective. Boil water then pour it directly on weeds. Larger weeds might need three to four applications of boiling water before they no longer come back. However, this is a hassle-free, low-cost solution which is worth trying.
Wear adequate clothing as protection so hot water doesn’t splash onto your hands, legs or feet.
You can stop weeds from getting water and sun they require to grow by using ground cover vegetation.
Ground covering plants will typically be factored in by professional landscapers. However, if you did your own landscaping, Cornell University recommends the following plants for use as ground cover due to their ability to reduce weeds, their low maintenance characteristics and their ease of establishment:
- Two-row Stonecrop
- White Heath Aster
- Northern Dropseed
- Little Bluestem
- Autumn Goldenrod
- Coral Bells
- Lady’s Mantle
- Blue Wood Sedge
If you own livestock, this solution is very simple – simply have your livestock eat the weeds.
Go to your cupboard in your kitchen, grab some plain old table salt, and apply the salt to weeds’ bases if you want them gone. You don’t need to add water – rain will do that eventually.
Salt will kill anything it touches, so don’t spill it on grass areas or the plants you don’t want to die.
Remember – once salt dilutes in rain, it could spread.
Repeated use of salt on paved areas can damage paved areas, so be careful.
While tiring and time-consuming, pulling out weeds by hand can help prevent the transfer of weed seeds to other places in your garden. A hardware store nearby will have goves and a sharp trowel or a garden claw. Get plenty deep into your soil to remove weeds by the root so they don’t grow back.
Mechanical weeding typically utilizes a mechanical implement which is pulled by a tractor. The mechanical implement physically uproots, chops or slices small weeds.
Thermal weeding refers to any technique which utilizes heat in order to kill weeds. Thermal weeding can be done using hot foam, steam or flame.
Chemical Alternatives To Paraquat
Farmers have many synthetic chemical paraquat alternatives to choose from which have superior safety profiles and less usage restrictions.
Numerous chemical alternatives which are technically considered more safe than paraquat still pose severe risks to environmental, human and animal health. Some of the more common alternatives to paraquat, such as diquat, have been banned in certain jurisdictions.
Chemical paraquat alternatives include:
- Glufosinate ammonium
Some of these alternatives require frequent and heavy application in order to be maximally effective. This increases the possible health and environmental hazards associated with them. Low rates of usage can help to mitigate negative impacts of these chemical alternatives. Risks can be further reduced by additional safety measures such as the use of appropriate spray carrier volume, pressure nozzles and spray adjuvants.
One of the most attractive qualities of paraquat is that the herbicide controls many weeds very quickly. Many chemical paraquat alternatives have a more limited range of use. Because of this, farmers need to utilize multiple chemicals and apply them more frequently, which may lead to more harm from herbicides to the environment and workers.
Diagnosed With Parkinson’s? Seek Legal Help
If you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease after being exposed to paraquat, Nadrich & Cohen can help you recover financial compensation for medical bills, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, pain, suffering and more by filing a lawsuit on your behalf.
We have been representing victims of exposure to toxic chemicals since 1990 and have recovered in excess of $400,000,000 for our clients. Our vast experience in representing toxic exposure clients will allow us to recover the maximum possible compensation for you.
If you can’t afford to have your Parkinson’s disease treated, we can get you to doctors who will treat your PD on a lien, meaning you will not be charged for treatment until your case is over. Doctors do this for our paraquat clients because they know we get our clients great results.
We will not charge you any fee to represent you in connection with your Parkinson’s disease until and unless we recover financial compensation for you. This means that you won’t owe us any upfront fee or out of pocket fee for us to handle your paraquat case. The only fee you’ll owe us for us to handle your paraquat case is a percentage of any money we recover on your behalf.
Call us today for a free consultation, fill out the free case evaluation form on this page or text us from this page if you or a loved one developed Parkinson’s disease after being exposed to paraquat. You may be entitled to financial compensation for your injuries.