New evidence has emerged that the makers of paraquat, a herbicide that is lethal when ingested, failed to properly implement safety measures to reduce poisonings and intentionally misled the public about their efforts to make this product safer. This adds further evidence to the claim that Syngeta has conducted their business in a negligent manner that has resulted in the harm of paraquat users, who are mostly farm workers and people who live in rural communities.
Syngenta, the maker of the paraquat-based weed killer Gramoxone, is already facing accusations that their product significantly increases the risk of Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative nervous system disorder. Product liability attorneys are currently working with plaintiffs in these paraquat lawsuits to establish liability and recover compensation for damages like medical bills, lost wages, loss of quality of life, and wrongful death.
Concerns About Highly Toxic Weed Killer Grow
In the 1970s, paraquat was introduced to the market as a highly effective weed killer. It was also identified as deadly when ingested, even in small amounts. Farmers would store it in drink bottles and accidentally take a drink, or mistake the dark liquid for coffee. More commonly, it was used to commit suicide. Once ingested, there is no antidote. In the years since, it has been banned in dozens of countries. However, it is still used in commercial farming operations in the U.S. as an effective method of weed control.
The EPA approval of paraquat usage is currently facing major opposition in California, as environmentalists and some farmers argue it is causing Parkinson’s disease. There is growing concern that even with careful handling, paraquat may be leaching into community water supplies, drifting into neighboring fields when distributed, and inhaled. The EPA has agreed to conduct another review of paraquat’s safety issues before granting final approval.
Meanwhile, Syngenta continues to defend its product. They claim that they can't be held accountable for people using paraquat for things outside its intended use any more than the makers of a bridge can be held liable for being a conduit for suicide. However, new evidence has exposed that Syngenta kept paraquat on the market under false pretenses, potentially making them liable in numerous wrongful death lawsuits.
Syngenta Includes Additive to Make Paraquat Safer, But in Ineffective Quantities
As a response to the risk of ingestion, manufacturers like Syngenta began making paraquat products with a distinctive odor and a blue color to limit the number of accidental ingestions. To further alleviate concerns that paraquat could be used to commit suicide, Syngenta began including an additive referred to as PP796 that would induce vomiting.
During this time, paraquat was facing controversy and was potentially going to be pulled from the market, so paraquat makers like Syngenta were highly motivated to find a way to reassure the public that it could be used safely. There was existing evidence that changing packaging, reducing the amount of paraquat in a herbicide, and adding granules substantially increased the survival rate of paraquat poisoning.
However, Syngenta rejected these options in favor of limiting the hit to their profits and sought out a more cost-effective option. The addition of PP796 was presented to regulators and the public as a solution to reverse the effects of paraquat by causing a person to throw up the paraquat before it was absorbed into the bloodstream.
Internal Documents Reveal Syngenta Knew Safety Measures Were Ineffective
However, in reality, the PP796 was not up to the task, and Syngenta knew it. A former Syngenta scientist, Jon Heylings, discovered that another paraquat toxicologist had deliberately manipulated data to make it appear as though the PP796 was much more effective in causing vomiting than it actually was. Recently uncovered internal Syngenta documents support Heyling’s claims.
Syngenta Decieves Regulators to Keep Profiting from Paraquat Sales
The toxicologist in question, Michael Rose, used a small study of 12 participants to substantiate the ratio of PP796 he was recommending and omitted data that contradicted his position. Additionally, Rose lied and claimed that humans were more sensitive to the vomit-inducing additive.
Rose’s own experiments with animals demonstrated that significantly higher amounts of PP796 would be necessary to make it effective. Jon Heylings first warned his superiors about this alarming discrepancy over 30 years ago. Despite the evidence he presented to his superiors, Heyling’s calls to dilute the solution or add more of the vomiting solution were ignored.
Not only has the inadequate amount of PP796 remained the same since the 1970s, but it has also become the industry standard. Heyling has continued to sound the alarm about this issue and has shared internal memos with product liability lawyers attempting to recover compensation for plaintiffs who have developed Parkinson’s disease from paraquat exposure.
Plaintiffs Seek Damages in Paraquat Poisoning Lawsuits
Paraquat manufacturers are already facing legal action based on claims that paraquat has caused farmers to develop Parkinson's disease as a result of passive absorption and inhalation. As it stands now, the paraquat jury trial is delayed until October 16th, 2023. It has already been a bumpy road for defendants, including an instance where a Chevron defense lawyer was sanctioned for improperly coaching expert witnesses.
The new evidence that Sygenta intentionally manipulated data and falsely marketed their paraquat as safer than it actually was will likely benefit plaintiffs in these claims. Plaintiffs still have the burden of proof to demonstrate that Syngenta and other paraquat manufacturers were negligent and violated their duty of care to consumers by failing to warn them of the risk of Parkinson’s associated with their product.
If plaintiffs are able to establish liability, they still have to prove that the defendant's negligence led to their injuries and damages. The best way to maximize compensation in claims like these is to hire a product liability lawyer who can provide legal expertise, access to expert witnesses, and credibility to a claim. Product liability lawyers can offer a range of valuable services that ensure your rights are protected, deadlines are met, and you walk away with maximum compensation for your injuries.