Paraquat Lawsuit Update 2021

tractor spraying paraquat on crops

A lawsuit filed in federal court in California on March 19 claims that a Tennessee man developed Parkinson’s disease due to his exposure to paraquat while working on farms in California in the 1980s.

Syngenta AG, Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC, and Chevron U.S.A. Inc. are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

The complaint alleges that the plaintiff was exposed to the herbicide paraquat:

  • When paraquat or its equipment were cleaned, applied, loaded or mixed;
  • When the wind caused sprayed droplets of paraquat to drift to unintended places, and/or;
  • When he came into contact with plants which had been sprayed by paraquat.

The lawsuit claims that the defendants knew or should have known about the above exposure methods, as well as about paraquat being able to enter the human body by:

  • Penetrating or being absorbed by the skin, mucous membranes and other tissues, especially where tissue damage is located;
  • Entering the olfactory bulb;
  • Being inhaled into the lungs;
  • Getting ingested after entering the mouth or nose.

Paraquat, once it gets into the body, according to the complaint, can then be reasonably expected to enter the brain and cause Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease can be caused when oxidative stress kills dopaminergic neurons, which produce dopamine. Dopamine is critical to the brain’s motor control, and these neurons are not replaced when they die, so when too many of these neurons die, the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are the result.

The complaint claims that paraquat can create or aggravate oxidative stress through its “redox cycling” properties. Paraquat, according to the lawsuit, can undergo redox cycling indefinitely once inside the brain, continuing to kill dopaminergic neurons for as long as the victim is alive.

The lawsuit makes the argument that the defendants knew or should have known that paraquat was dangerous, since science has known since 1933 about paraquat’s redox properties and has known that paraquat is toxic since the 1960s.

The lawsuit seeks to recover damages based on the defendants failing to warn about how dangerous paraquat really was on its labeling, as well as failing to provide good enough instructions as to how farm workers could protect themselves from paraquat with equipment such as gloves and masks.

The complaint also accuses the defendants of inadequately testing the safety of paraquat, and inadequately testing how likely exposure farm workers’ exposure to paraquat was.

The lawsuit seeks punitive damages to punish the defendants for “deliberately” crafting their labeling to “mislead” the public and deter others from doing the same.