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Widely Used Herbicide, Paraquat, Potentially Linked with Parkinson’s Disease

Paraquat, also commonly referred to as Gramoxone, is a long known toxic chemical widely used as a herbicide (plant killer) and is primarily used in weed and grass control. Paraquat has been available and used by agricultural workers in the United States for decades now. However, the US Environmental Protection Agency has restricted its use to only those who are “licensed applicators”. Paraquat was first introduced for commercial use in 1961. Since that time, it has become one of the most commonly used commercial herbicides.

What makes Paraquat so dangerous to people is that it can be easily mixed with food, water, or other beverages as a contaminant. Paraquat poisoning typically is due to ingestion (swallowing). However, Paraquat poisoning may be also due to possible skin exposure. This is especially true if skin exposure lasts for a long time and involves a concentrated Paraquat mixture. Recent studies have suggested that repeated exposure to Paraquat in low doses may be linked to the development of Parkinson’s disease. One such study suggested that exposure to Paraquat increased the risk of Parkinson’s disease by as much as 150%.

One of the largest manufactures of Paraquat in the United States is Syngenta. Numerous lawsuits have been filed against manufacturers of Paraquat, however, Syngenta and other manufacturers deny that there is any definitive link between the use of Paraquat and the development of Parkinson’s disease. Scientists have come to suggest that a deficit of the neurotransmitter dopamine causes Parkinson’s disease. Scientific studies have suggested that Paraquat can kill the dopamine-producing nerve cells in the brain when Paraquat is inhaled by workers who come into contact with aerosolized Paraquat such as during crop spraying. Paraquat may also end up in the brain after ingestion of contaminated water and/or by skin exposure. The Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) has noted that once Paraquat enters the body, it is distributed throughout the body, including the brain.

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