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Have you recently experienced severe side effects after using the herbicide commonly known as Paraquat? If so, you aren’t alone. Exposure to this herbicide and weed killer has been linked to organ damage and Parkinson’s.
Paraquat is a chemical developed by Chevron in the 1960’s and has been widely used as an herbicide, primarily for weed and grass control. In the United Sates, Paraquat is available primarily as a liquid, and its use is limited to licensed commercial applicators due to its’ toxicity. The highly poisonous chemical has a strong odor and an added agent which induces vomiting if ingested. The form of this herbicide that is marketed in the U.S. even has a blue dye so users of the product do not mistake it for a beverage.
Throughout the world, Paraquat is still one of the most commonly used herbicides. Many farmers and homeowners have long used the Monsanto produced herbicide Roundup or a generic brand version of it. The main ingredient is a chemical called Glyphosate. Due to the length of time many farmers were using Glyphosate based herbicides, many weeds have built up a resistance to Roundup. More and more farmers are turning back to Paraquat to kill glyphosate-resistant plants, which translate to more exposure to Paraquat for the average person living near these farming communities. There has been a recent push to ban this product, and in 2019 Congress introduced legislation seeking to ban Paraquat from use in the United States completely.
Exposure to paraquat can lead to numerous complications within weeks if exposed to only a small amount, while exposure to large amounts can have extremely serious effects rapidly- including fatalities. The extent of the damage caused by the chemical depends on the amount, route, and duration of exposure. As with any potential illness, a person’s health condition is also a factor in the effects of damage caused. According to the CDC, the most common way to be affected by Paraquat is to ingest it by mouth. Once Paraquat enters the body, it is distributed all throughout the body, causing chemical reactions to various internal organs. The toxic chemical reactions most commonly affect the lungs, kidneys, and liver.
Because it is used primarily in agriculture, there have been trace amounts of Paraquat found on produce. This means there is an increased risk of exposure in farming communities. Ingestion is not the only way to come into potentially harmful contact with Paraquat though. It is dangerous any time that it enters the body, including absorption through any open wounds on the skin or inhalation of the fumes. Inhalation of Paraquat can cause damage to the lungs and esophagus.
Although Paraquat can be lethal if exposed to a large amount suddenly, it is also dangerous if exposure occurs over long periods of time and in low doses. Studies have shown that long term, low-dose inhalation can be linked to Parkinson’s disease. In fact, low dose exposure early in life can increase a person’s chances of getting Parkinson’s disease by up to 600%. Over thirty countries have banned the use of this herbicide, including the European Union. Although in America, Paraquat is making a resurgence.
Signs and Symptoms
- Ingestion of small amounts may cause organ failure within days to weeks:
- Heart failure
- Kidney failure
- Liver failure
- Ingestion of large amounts may lead to adverse reactions within hours to a few days:
- Increased heart rate
- Muscle weakness
- Acute kidney and liver failure
- Lung scarring
- Trouble breathing or fluid in the lungs
- Those who survive extreme Paraquat poisoning may suffer long-term organ failure and scarring of the esophagus and lungs