The Environmental Protection Agency has requested a voluntary remand from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to allow them additional time to reevaluate their position on paraquat, a commonly used weedkiller. This is happening in the context of thousands of paraquat lawsuits being filed by plaintiffs who claim they have developed Parkinson's disease after repeated exposure to this toxic substance, mostly through agricultural work.
Formally known as paraquat dichloride, this toxic product has been used by licensed operators in the agricultural industry for over 50 years as a herbicide to protect crops. Although the EPA has maintained that it can be used safely, it is taking the time to review the risks of paraquat exposure as a result of legal action taken by concerned health advocacy organizations.
EPA Issues New Restrictions On Paraquate Usage
The herbicide Paraquat is currently facing scrutiny by the EPA based on claims that it has put users at risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. The EPA is tasked with routinely vetting hazardous chemicals under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which is intended to “regulate pesticide distribution, sale, and use”. In the EPA’s most recent assessment of paraquat, they added additional stipulations to its usage in order to alleviate concerns about its links to serious health issues, such as Parkinson’s disease and cancer. These conditions include:
- Restricting aerial applications
- Requiring space between areas that are treated with paraquat and residential areas
- Prohibiting pressurized handguns and backpack-type sprayer applications
- Mandating masks for people applying paraquat
Thus far, the EPA claims that they have found no clear evidence of a causal relationship between exposure to paraquat and Parkinson’s disease. With these new requirements in place, the EPA says that laborers can continue using paraquat while they continue to investigate any connection between the weedkiller and serious health conditions.
Debate on the Dangers of Paraquat Continues as EPA Reevaluates
Despite complaints from agriculture workers and the standing ban on paraquat in 30 other countries, the EPA reauthorized the use of paraquat, albeit with these added restrictions. However, there has been growing pressure from consumer advocacy groups that have sounded the alarm about the number of Parkinson’s cases related to paraquat exposure.
These new restrictions were issued in July 2021. Since then, groups like Earthjustice, the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, the Pesticide Action Network, the Farmworker Association of Florida, and the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research have lobbied for the EPA to reassess their stance on paraquat.
As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency has requested time to conduct additional evaluations and potentially revise its decision. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals approved the voluntary remand requested by the EPA after these advocacy groups demanded that paraquat herbicides be investigated further.
Paraquat Pesticide Exposure Linked to Serious Health Conditions
Paraquat is an herbicide used for commercial purposes. It is commonly employed by farmers and other agricultural workers as a pesticide, spraying it on and around their plants or crops to reduce weeds. It is known to be a highly toxic product when ingested, and potentially harmful when inhaled or absorbed.
Research has linked paraquat herbicides, like Gramoxone, Parazone, and Firestorm, to Parkinson’s disease, cancer, and other health issues. The main focus of the paraquat lawsuits is their connection to Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disease that wreaks havoc on the body’s nerves, compromising functions like mobility and speech. It can be treated, but it is incurable. Parkinson’s disease is a condition that can be particularly devastating for those in the agricultural industry, as they rely heavily on manual labor to do their jobs.
Paraquat Manufacturers May Be Held Liable For Negligence
Farmers, agricultural laborers, and rural residents impacted by this toxic chemical believe that paraquat manufacturers should be held liable for their dangerous product. In a product liability lawsuit, the paraquat cases would qualify as design failures and inadequate warnings of the risks associated with its usage. Manufacturers owe consumers a duty of care to ensure that their products are not unreasonably dangerous and to warn consumers of the risks that are associated with the usage of the products. It appears that paraquat manufacturers have failed to fulfill this duty.
Thus far, paraquat manufacturers such as Syngenta, Growmark, and Chevron have been named in product liability lawsuits. These paraquat lawsuits have been consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL) to minimize the strain on court resources. Additionally, proceeding with these claims via MDL means that plaintiffs with comparable cases receive reasonably similar settlements. The multi-district litigation is being overseen by Chief U.S. District Judge Nancy Rosenstengel.
Farmers Pursue Paraquat Manufacturers for Damages
A progressive disease like Parkinson’s can have a profound impact on a person’s physical and mental health, in addition to their finances. These damages may be economic in nature, with clear monetary values, or non-economic, requiring a subjective evaluation of their worth. Both types of compensatory damages can be reimbursed in a paraquat Parkinson’s lawsuit. Injured plaintiffs in the paraquat Parkinsons lawsuits are seeking compensation for damages like:
- Medical bills
- Mobility aids
- Home healthcare aide
- Job-related losses
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
A diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease means that patients often eventually lose the ability to walk independently, write, hold objects in their hands, and even swallow or blink. After being repeatedly exposed to dangerous levels of paraquat, farmers and agricultural workers may be unable to work, provide for their families, or maintain a decent quality of life, let alone live independently. These are costs that may be compensated in a paraquat Parkinson’s lawsuit, though the final settlement amount will depend on the progression and the degree of damage the disease has caused.