The herbicide Paraquat has been linked to causing a Parkinson’s disease pandemic across central California’s farming communities.
Paraquat and Parkinson’s: California’s Other Pandemic
As the world struggles to deal with one pandemic, California is dealing with two—in addition to dealing with COVID-19, the residents of California’s Central Valley are also seeing a rising number of Parkinson’s disease cases.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder that leads to shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with coordination, balance, and walking. While Parkinson’s disease is not contagious, there has been an extraordinary number of cases appearing in Central California—so many cases that the area has earned the name “Parkinson’s Alley.”
What is Parkinson’s Alley?
“Parkinson’s Alley” is the 300-mile-long stretch of farm towns in Central Valley, California, between Bakersfield and Sacramento. Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) found that residents of this area under the age of 60 who lived near fields, where the pesticides Paraquat and Maneb had been used between 1974 and 1999 had a rate of Parkinson’s disease nearly five times higher than other residents in the region.
What Do Paraquat and Parkinson’s Have to Do with Each Other?
Paraquat is a herbicide that has been linked to Parkinson’s disease. It was first produced for commercial purposes in 1961. Paraquat is widely used commercially in the United States, even though it has been banned in 32 countries, including the European Union and China.
The American Journal of Epidemiology, JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Neurology, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences are a few of the many sources that have published research linking Paraquat to Parkinson’s disease.
The Parkinson’s Foundation and the Unified Parkinson’s Advocacy Council sent letters to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking it to ban Paraquat because of the research that has linked it to Parkinson’s disease. The EPA has yet to ban Paraquat, and in 2020, it reapproved Paraquat for use in the United States. Unless additional action is taken, Paraquat will remain legal to use in the U.S. for the next 15 years.
In Parkinson’s Alley, local farmers have used Paraquat for decades, resulting in the high incidence of cases there.
What Do I Need to Know About Parkinson’s Pesticide Exposure?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Paraquat exposure can happen in the following ways:
- The most common way to be poisoned from Paraquat exposure is ingestion.
- Paraquat can easily be accidentally mixed with food or drinks. Unless a safeguard additive of dye, odor, or vomiting agent has been added, people might not know that their food or drink has been contaminated.
- Paraquat poisoning can happen after exposure to the skin if it was prolonged or if the skin had an open sore, cut, or rash.
- Inhalation of Paraquat can cause poisoning and lung damage.
If someone has been exposed to Paraquat, they are likely to experience swelling and pain in their mouth and throat. They may also experience gastrointestinal problems such as abdominal pain, nausea, or bloody diarrhea. Ingesting even a small amount of Paraquat can lead to lung scarring, heart failure, liver failure, and kidney failure. Ingesting large amounts of Paraquat can cause seizures, respiratory failure, pulmonary edema, liver failure, kidney failure, coma, or death.
If you or a loved one has been exposed to Paraquat, you may be concerned about your risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. You should be familiar with the list of symptoms of Parkinson’s so that you can seek medical attention as soon as you begin to exhibit symptoms.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include:
- Tremors in the hands, arms, legs, head, or jaw
- Stiffness of the trunk and limbs
- Impaired balance and coordination leading to an increased risk of falls
- Slowness of movement (bradykinesia)
- Speech changes, such as speaking softer, quicker, slurring, with hesitation, or in monotone
- Depression or other emotional problems
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing
- Urinary problems or constipation
- Sleep disruptions
- Skin problems
- Inability to make facial expressions
- Developing a gait that includes the tendency to lean forward, small quick steps, or reduced swinging of the arms
If you were exposed to Paraquat and think you are beginning to show signs of Parkinson’s disease, you should seek medical attention. There is currently no blood or lab test to diagnose nongenetic cases of Parkinson’s disease, but a diagnosis can be given based on a patient’s medical history and a neurological exam.
While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, you can make lifestyle changes and take medications that can slow the disease’s progression and reduce the symptoms, which can greatly improve a patient’s quality of life.
You should also speak with an experienced Parkinson’s pesticide exposure attorney who can get you the justice you deserve for your injuries. There are currently hundreds of Paraquat lawsuits that have been filed across the United States. Victims claim that the manufacturers of Paraquat failed to warn the public about the dangers of using the product. Because of the very large number of cases with similar facts, the cases were consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL) to help expedite the legal process. An experienced Paraquat exposure attorney will be able to help you navigate this process.
Contact an Experienced Parkinson’s Pesticide Exposure Lawyer
Guardian Legal Network knows that dealing with Parkinson’s disease can be scary. If you or a loved one was exposed to pesticides and is now exhibiting symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, we can help.
We connect victims to experienced Parkinson’s pesticide exposure lawyers who can help you navigate the legal system and get you the justice and compensation you deserve. Contact Guardian Legal Network today.
- Anthony Wang, et al. “Parkinson’s disease risk from ambient exposure to pesticides”, Eur J Epidemiol., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3643971/. Accessed April 13, 2022.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Facts About Paraquat,” https://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/paraquat/basics/facts.asp. Accessed April 15, 2022.
- Colleen R. Reczek, et al. “A CRISPR screen identifies a pathway required for paraquat-induced cell death,” Nature Chemical Biology, https://www.nature.com/articles/nchembio.2499. Accessed April 15, 2022.
- Mayo Clinic, “Parkinson’s Disease,” https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/parkinsons-disease. Accessed April 13, 2022.
- National Institute on Aging. “Parkinson’s Disease,” https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/parkinsons-disease. Accessed April 13, 2022.