Each year tens of thousands of people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s. The steadily growing rate of diagnoses may coincide with an aging population more susceptible to Parkinson’s. The Baby Boomer generation contains the largest population distribution in the United States. As they reach their upper years, the numbers for health concerns such as Parkinson’s disease increase.
But that isn’t the only reason Parkinson’s disease is rising. New cases of Parkinson’s disease have reached 50 percent higher than previous estimates. This shows a steep increase that does not correspond with the aging of a generation. Studies have shown there are environmental factors at play when it comes to these numbers. Age doesn’t seem to be a factor either, as younger people are being diagnosed more frequently with Parkinson’s disease.
Some reports have found a connection between pesticide use—such as Paraquat—with the number of cases of Parkinson’s. If you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and have a history of using Paraquat, you might be entitled to compensation. An attorney can help to protect your rights and hold those responsible liable for your damages.
What Is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease affecting more than one million Americans, and it has been estimated that over 90,000 more diagnoses are made yearly. According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, it is the “second-most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s.”
Parkinson’s affects the central nervous system and causes problems with fine motor skills, cognitive decline, difficulty in speech, and eventually death. Right now, there is no known cure for Parkinson’s disease.
It occurs when nerve cells in an area of the brain called the substantia nigra are damaged and resist receiving a hormone known as dopamine. You might know dopamine as one of the feel-good chemicals your body produces, but it plays a big part in transmitting information throughout your nervous system. This relates not only to your mood but also to motor function, memory, systemic regulation, and involuntary brain functions.
Researchers theorize that there could be a range of causes of this disease. As the majority of people who have Parkinson’s disease are elderly (65 and older), males, and frequently have been associated with working in industrial, agricultural, and manufacturing jobs, scientists believe a combination of factors such as age, genetics, and environmental factors could be to blame.
What Is Paraquat?
Paraquat is an herbicide/pesticide developed in the early 1960s to control broad-leafed weeds and grasses. It inhibits photosynthesis, a necessary biological function of plants that converts sunlight to sugars and carbon dioxide through fermentation. Without photosynthesis, the plants die.
The DEA used Paraquat throughout the War on Drugs to destroy marijuana crops. Its use has increased due to the importance of monoculture agriculture. It was valued for its purported ability to become inert once it was in the soil, supposedly causing no ill effects to consumers or farmers. It is a highly regulated, toxic chemical that can cause problems with direct contact and ingestion. Those who handle and use Paraquat need special training and PPE.
Paraquat poisoning can lead to:
- Kidney failure
- Heart failure
- Liver damage
- Pulmonary edema
- Respiratory arrest
- Lung scarring
The Connection With Parkinson’s Disease
According to studies, casual exposure, genetic factors, and age make people in contact or proximity to Paraquat much more susceptible to developing Parkinson’s disease due to the cellular impact of the active ingredients of Paraquat. These chemicals cause oxidative stress which can cause death and disruption of dopamine receptors, contributing to the condition.
The Rural Lifestyle
According to the American Parkinson’s Disease Association, people living in rural areas are 1.5 to two times more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease. Many traits are unique to rural living, and living on a farm might mean proximity to pesticides and herbicides used in agriculture.
Drinking well water might expose people to higher levels of contaminants found in groundwater, and heavier reliance on monoculture and other agricultural trends have demanded more pesticides and herbicides for higher yields. Changes in pesticides and herbicides have been made in recent years due to environmental concerns, particularly with the use of Paraquat.
Studies have shown that some pesticides and herbicides (particularly Rotenone and Paraquat) affect the dopamine receptors in humans through oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction.
Here are some ways you might have ingested Paraquat:
- Working on a farm
- Handling or loading Paraquat in distribution
- Transport of Paraquat in shipping and trucking
- County and local government grounds and maintenance crews
- Pesticide spraying
- Crop dusting
- Living near farms which used Paraquat
- Drinking well water on farms using Paraquat
- Living in areas that were downwind from paraquat spraying
- Horticulture/grounds work
Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is a deadly, degenerative neurological disease affecting millions worldwide. It has been listed as the fourteenth leading cause of death among Americans, particularly males over 65.
Here are some of Parkinson’s disease symptoms.
- Tremor: Muscle spasms and shaking are early indications of Parkinson’s. Tremors can begin in the extremities, affecting fine motor skills and eventually developing into large motor functions.
- Difficulty speaking: Lots of different motor skills are involved in speaking, as well as cognition. Parkinson’s quickly begins to work away from these functions, limiting a person’s ability to process speech and articulation.
- Writing: Motor skills and cognition needed to hold a pen or pencil and write are impacted greatly by Parkinson’s disease.
- Insomnia and sleep disorders: Restless nights and days filled with listlessness and hypersomnia are common. Sleep disorders also compound the likelihood of multiple diseases such as heart failure, sleep apnea, and other chronic illnesses.
- Balance: A person’s ability to hold upright, walk, and carry themselves with good posture is impacted. This might affect their ability to walk unassisted and eventually might restrict them to mobility with only a wheelchair.
- Pain: The joint stiffness, muscular rigidity, and spasms limit movement and cause a lot of pain.
- Cognitive dysfunction: Since Parkinson’s affects neurological functions by inhibiting dopamine receptors, nerve cells might deteriorate and malfunction in the brain and nervous system. This could lead to problems with memory and one’s ability to think. It might present itself as dementia (and is sometimes confused with Alzheimer’s).
- Involuntary functions: People with Parkinson’s might have difficulty eating or swallowing food. They might have problems with digestion and become constipated or have excessive drooling. Blinking, eye movements, and reflexes can be severely reduced and difficult daily.
- Weakness and numbness in extremities: As the nerves begin to deteriorate, numbness and muscle weakness will follow. This can result in other injuries and ulceration of the wounds, resulting in infection and even amputation in extreme cases.
- Mental anguish: As a fatal, degenerative disease, Parkinson’s disease brings a great deal of psychological trauma for those experiencing it. As a person with Parkinson’s disease, you are facing mortality, having to rely more on family and caregivers, and experiencing a rapid decline from an otherwise healthy life.
Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease
As there is no cure for Parkinson’s, medical science has been fairly limited in treating this disease. Symptoms are more commonly treated, especially with chronic pain, palsy, and depression, with medication. Problems such as pneumonia, pulmonary edema, muscle pain, difficulty eating, and other symptoms are treated to improve the quality of life of those suffering from Parkinson’s.
Often, the drugs used to treat one symptom can compound the other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. For example, painkillers containing opioids may lead to other issues such as constipation, reduced cognitive ability, and sleep disorders.
Advances have also been made in drug treatment to address the blocking of dopamine receptors in an attempt to stymie or reverse the damage done. These drugs often have a long list of side effects, such as hallucinations, impulse control, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
Quality of Life
As the disease progresses, the person with Parkinson’s will experience a dramatically reduced quality of life. They will eventually become disabled to the point where normal daily functions are severely limited. They might have to retire from their jobs if they are still working and go on permanent disability. In the agricultural industry, disability insurance is likely not something they have access to. In this case, they might need to rely on full-time care from family or a care facility.
Caring for disabled people in their adult years requires a lot of help. The infrastructure required to outfit their house with disability access, such as wheelchair ramps, accessible bathing stations, grab bars, and other equipment, is expensive. Full-time care, such as personal hygiene, feeding, medication, and emergency care, are also important.
As the disease progresses, care might have to be taken from in-home care to a full-time care facility with a full-time medical staff who can take over. These facilities are incredibly expensive and carry their own concerns about the type of care and quality you can expect from a care facility.
Medication and treatments are often prohibitively expensive and not covered by some insurers. This leaves the person with Parkinson’s with difficult choices to make, such as liquidating their assets to afford treatment, reducing their ability to provide for their family, and even sacrificing a legacy to support their loved ones. Especially in the agricultural industry, the family farm might have to be sold off for expensive treatments, ending an entire way of life for generations to follow.
Damages from Parkinson’s Disease
Nobody asks for Parkinson’s disease, and those who contracted it due to Paraquat should be compensated for the damages it has caused.
Here are some expenses due to Parkinson’s disease you might recover:
- Hospital bills: Parkinson’s disease might require an extended stay in a hospital due to surgeries and treatment.
- Emergency medical care: Falls and other injuries caused by the effects of Parkinson’s might result in trips to the ER, which are very expensive.
- Disability access equipment: As mentioned before, ramps, grab bars, wheelchairs, and other equipment will probably have to be installed.
- Prescription drugs: Treatment for Parkinson’s is expensive, and with newer, more effective drugs comes a heavy price.
- Surgeries: Surgeries might be required for injuries to treatment in addressing muscle and bone pain from chronic cramping and distention. These are sometimes painful and very expensive.
- Testing and treatments: As your journey with Parkinson’s continues, you will have to undergo various tests to monitor your progression as well as a variety of treatments in an attempt to slow its degenerative effects.
- Loss of income and future income: Your income will be seriously impacted, as will your ability to keep up with the increased hospital bills, compounding the financial strain on you and your family.
- Pain and suffering: This disease is cruel in how much pain and suffering it carries. Not only physical pain that cannot be reversed but also mental anguish in dealing with one’s mortality and steady decline.
- Death: Funeral expenses and one’s ability to provide for their family are major concerns of anyone experiencing Parkinson’s disease. “Who will take care of my family when I am gone?” These are expenses and losses that can often be included in a Parkinson’s claim.
Contact an Attorney
Parkinson’s disease affects the hundreds of thousands of Americans diagnosed each year and their families and communities that must navigate this incurable disease. The companies responsible for supplying Paraquat have a lot to answer for and should be held liable for exposing a large population of people to the dangerous chemicals in Paraquat. We are just learning about the extent of exposure to Paraquat and other pesticides that may be responsible for immeasurable losses.
Contacting an attorney can mean the difference between losing everything in a slow and gradual decline or holding those accountable for exposing innocent people to harmful chemicals. An experienced attorney knows the litigation process and can navigate the complexities of the legal system, from negotiating with insurance companies to fighting for your rights in a courtroom. Settlements and cash awards from the courts can offset the pain, suffering, and expenses you and your loved ones can expect from Parkinson’s disease.
Contact an experienced product liability attorney for your free case consultation and learn how they can recover what you deserve for your losses.