The Paraquat Vending Machine Murders

paraquat parkinsons claims

In recent years, popular weed killer products that contain the harmful herbicide paraquat have resulted in several pending lawsuits, with the claim that exposure to paraquat has caused victims to develop Parkinson’s disease.

Many medical professionals argue that the manufacturers that use paraquat have been aware of the dangers linked to this harmful chemical for decades. In fact, back in 1985, paraquat-related deaths also made headlines with the infamous vending machine murders that rocked Hiroshima, Japan, leaving 12 innocent people dead from paraquat ingestion.

Paraquat Poisoner Terrorizes Japan

In 1985, no one was prepared for the dangers of fatal poisoning that were the result of a serial killer on the loose on the streets of Japan. The killer targeted innocent people by poisoning bottles of soda that were left in, on top of, or around vending machines.

Paraquat is an herbicide that’s still found in many widely used weed killer products to this day.

In 1985, a murderer was on the loose in the streets of Japan, but this person’s weapon of choice wasn’t a knife or a gun, it was paraquat. The killer would add paraquat to soda bottles, leaving them on top, close by, or inside the vending machines, disguised as a soda that was already paid for and left behind in the dispensing bin.

The murderer first struck on April 30th, 1985, in Fukuyama, Hiroshima. The poisoned bottle of soda was left on top of the vending machine. The unsuspecting victim drank the soda and soon succumbed to fatal paraquat poisoning. Unfortunately, the killer struck eleven more times in September and November.

Warnings Against Paraquat Poisoning

As news spread of a murderer on the loose in Japan, vending machine operators began posting warnings, telling buyers to avoid drinking any abandoned drinks found around, on top, or in the dispensing bin. Fortunately, these warnings did the trick and additional murders were averted.

Cause of Death

Testing determined that eleven victims died of paraquat poisoning, while one of the victims died of diquat poisoning.

The Method of Poisoning

The vending machine murderer had a very simple plan, one that was highly effective and allowed him or her to be nowhere near the victim when the poisoned was consumed.

A popular Japanese health drink company was offering a promotion at the time of the murders. Some lucky buyers would get a free second bottle of Oronamin C from the vending machine, as a sort of marketing gimmick.

However, Oronamin C wasn’t the only type of drink that the killer poisoned. Coke products were also laced with the deadly chemical paraquat. The murderer hoped that the bottle of Oronamin C left in the bin of a vending machine wouldn’t cause suspicion and that someone would gladly take a free bottle of soda.

The Investigation

Police worked around the clock to solve this case, but unfortunately, there were no leads. Because the killer chose vending machines located in low-traffic areas, there were also no witnesses. Back in the 1980s, video surveillance wasn’t as common as it is today. With no witnesses, no video surveillance, and no DNA evidence, the investigation was at a standstill.

The police and investigators were also uncertain of the motive, as the victims were randomly chosen. The poisoned beverages were placed in a variety of locations, with no apparent connection between them. Unfortunately, due to the lack of evidence, the case eventually went cold, and the killer was never found.

Statute of Limitations

In 2010, Japan abolished the statute of limitations for murder. This means, if the killer is ever identified, he or she can still be prosecuted for their crimes.

How Paraquat Kills

When ingested, paraquat can destroy the body over a period of several hours, days or weeks. Unfortunately, as soon as the poison has made its way to the kidneys, the victim is unable to remove the poison from their system as it begins to circulate through the body.

Paraquat poisoning can cause the internal organs to shut down, one at a time. Once the poison travels to the lungs it severely impacts oxygen saturation, causing a medical condition called pulmonary fibrosis.

Pulmonary fibrosis describes a group of lung diseases that affect the respiratory system. The disease thickens and scars lung tissue, impacting the alveoli (air sacs found inside the lung) and the connecting tissue.

In a matter of hours, the lung damage worsens, and the lung tissue hardens, which prevents it from expanding, making it difficult to breathe as the lungs begin to fill with fluid, causing the victim to drown.

Paraquat is Still Used in America

Because of the speed at which it kills weeds, products containing paraquat are heavily relied on by landscapers and farmers. First introduced in the 1960s, over the years, due to its reputation for quickly killing weeds, paraquat became the go-to herbicide and is still widely used to this day. In fact, more than 10 million pounds of the herbicide is used annually in the U.S.

What We Know About Paraquat Poisoning & Exposure Today

Several countries have banned the use of paraquat, but America has not. Unfortunately, long-term and short-term exposure to paraquat has proven to cause severe health complications.

Licensed paraquat applicators are at the highest risk for exposure, but anyone who works in an environment where paraquat is regularly used can be exposed.

Paraquat Poisoning

Most cases of paraquat ingestion are accidental. Paraquat poisoning can occur through ingestion, skin exposure, or inhalation. Even a small amount of ingested paraquat can damage the intestines, lungs, stomach, and mouth. Swallowing a large amount of paraquat, as was the case with the vending machine murders, and can lead to death within a matter of hours or several weeks.

Symptoms of Poisoning due to Ingesting Paraquat

The symptoms experienced due to paraquat exposure can vary from person to person and will depend on how someone was exposed and the quantity and duration of exposure.

In cases of acute poisoning, symptoms begin with swelling and pain in the throat and mouth. It can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea once it’s ingested.

Long-Term Effects of Paraquat Exposure

People who have been exposed to paraquat for years may not experience acute symptoms of poisoning; however, they may still suffer long-term side effects, in addition to an increased risk for developing Parkinson’s Disease.

Paraquat exposure can cause:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Scarring of the esophagus
  • Heart failure
  • Reproductive problems
  • Kidney failure
  • Lung scarring
  • Impaired lung function

Paraquat Lawsuits on the Rise

Several studies have shown the damage this harmful herbicide can cause and those who have been exposed to paraquat for several years have experienced a wide range of health issues, including the development of Parkinson’s Disease. Currently, there are several pending California paraquat lawsuits, filed by individuals who were exposed to paraquat and later developed Parkinson’s Disease.

What to Do if You Experience Symptoms

If you had paraquat exposure and were subsequently diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, schedule an appointment with your physician as soon as possible. Your doctor will assess you and run the necessary tests to determine if paraquat exposure is causing your symptoms. While exposure to paraquat is not the only cause of Parkinson’s disease, those exposed to paraquat have a significantly higher chance of developing it.

If your doctor diagnoses you with Parkinson’s disease and you have a history of paraquat exposure, contact an attorney as soon as possible to learn how you can hold the manufacturer of paraquat products responsible for your illness and other related damages.

Have You Been Exposed to Paraquat?

 If you have been exposed to paraquat and have developed Parkinson’s disease, now is the time to act. Contact Nadrich & Cohen Accident Injury Lawyers today to schedule a case review. Our experienced and knowledgeable attorneys know how to build a solid case that will hold the manufacturers responsible for your medical bills, pain and suffering, and other damages. Let Nadrich & Cohen Accident Injury Lawyers help you seek the justice and compensation you deserve.


November 5, 2009

Safety Tips To Avoid Automobile Accidents During The Holidays

The holidays are an incredibly busy time on America’s roads. Every year, t...


August 27, 2009

Hazardous Foods for Driving: Tips for Preventing a Car Accident

Most people today find themselves on the run way too often. This renders our au...


June 17, 2010

Top 10 Delivery Room Mistakes That Cause Cerebral Palsy

Parents of a child with cerebral palsy at one time or another have found themse...