Paraquat is a herbicide with known risk for occupational exposure. Since its approval in the U.S. in the 1940s, paraquat use has continued to increase and expand into new applications, including in immunologically sensitive populations such as agricultural workers. Regardless of its widespread usage from industrial farms to home gardens, paraquat has come under fire for its link to Parkinson’s disease. In fact, one of the most recent studies published on this topic found that people with high frequent exposure to paraquat had an 80% higher risk of developing PD than those who were not exposed. Below is a summary of what you need to know about frequent paraquat exposure and Parkinson’s disease.
What is Paraquat?
Paraquat is one of the most widely used herbicides in the U.S. for the control of weeds in many agricultural and non-agricultural settings and as a defoliant on crops, such as cotton, prior to harvest. Paraquat acts as a cationic dication, which means that it is positively charged and can easily travel through the cell membranes of plants and treated crops, where it disrupts normal metabolism and causes cell death. In humans, however, glyphosate and paraquat are the most toxic herbicides, with paraquat being “one of the most acutely toxic compounds known”. Thus, a very small amount of this chemical can have a very large effect on the body. Dubbed “highly poisonous” by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is so toxic that a single sip of the herbicide can kill an adult.
How Does Paraquat Cause Parkinson’s Disease?
Paraquat can enter the nervous system and dopamine neurons, where it blocks the metabolic conversion of N-oxyl-dopamine to dopamine, the neurotransmitter controlled by the basal ganglia of the brain that is responsible for movement, emotional responses, reward and pleasure, and, critically, is a precursor to the formation of abnormal proteins found in the brain of people with PD. While the exact mechanism of how paraquat damages nerve cells is unknown, researchers have determined that it causes oxidative stress and inflammation of neurons, which can lead to neuronal cell death and damage. Because it can cross the blood-brain barrier, paraquat can be found in high concentrations in the brains of individuals who have been exposed to it and developed PD. This makes paraquat an excellent biomarker for long-term exposure and links it to the development of PD.
What is the Scientific Link that Long Term Exposure to Paraquat Can Lead to Parkinson's?
Numerous scientific studies have linked frequent exposure to paraquat to Parkinson’s. A large 2011 study of U.S. farmers found that those who used paraquat were twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease as those who didn’t use the restricted use pesticide. Other research has found that cumulative exposure over long periods increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s Data published by Louisiana State University shows that a person’s zip code and proximity to cropland where paraquat is applied correlates with the risk of developing Parkinson’s.
Scientists believe that a deficit of the neurotransmitter dopamine causes Parkinson’s. Studies have demonstrated that paraquat can kill dopamine-producing nerve cells in the brain. Inhaling paraquat, which could happen if workers come into contact with aerosolized droplets during crop spraying, gives it a direct pathway to the brain, say researchers at the University of Rochester. However, paraquat could also end up in the brain after ingestion or skin exposure. The CDC notes that, once paraquat enters the body, it is distributed to all areas of the body. Fred Kamel, a scientist within an epidemiology branch of the National Health Institute, has said that research on the link between paraquat and Parkinson’s disease is “about as persuasive as these things can get.”
Who Is Most Likely to Suffers Frequent Exposure to Paraquat
Agricultural workers and their families are those most likely to suffer frequent exposure to paraquat and long term exposure to paraquat. However, people living near farms and fields can also suffer frequent paraquat exposure. The following people are at high risk of exposure:
The numerous and well-documents studies confirm a direct link between long term exposure to Paraquat and Parkinson's disease. As a result, numerous Paraquat Exposure Lawsuits have been filed around the country by those who suffered frequent exposure to paraquat and developed Parkinson's disease. If you or a loved one were exposed to paraquat and subsequently developed Parkinson's, call a Paraquat Exposure Lawyer today.
Timothy L. Miles, Esq.
Timothy L. Miles is a nationally recognized shareholder rights attorney raised in Nashville, Tennessee. Mr. Miles was recentely selected by Martindale-Hubbell® and ALM as a 2022 Top Ranked Lawyer, 2022 Top Rated Litigator. and a 2022 Elite Lawyer of the South. Mr. Miles also maintains the AV Preeminent Rating by Martindale-Hubbell®, their highest rating for both legal ability and ethics. Mr. Miles is a member of the prestigious Top 100 Civil Plaintiff Trial Lawyers: The National Trial Lawyers Association, a superb rated attorney by Avvo, a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award by Premier Lawyers of America (2019) and recognized as a Distinguished Lawyer, Recognizing Excellence in Securities Law, by Lawyers of Distinction (2019).
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