The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the widely-used herbicide paraquat is highly poisonous. The effects of paraquat poisoning depend on the route, amount, and duration of exposure in addition to the person’s health condition when he or she is exposed. While the makers of this weed killer allegedly knew about the dangers of exposure, they failed to warn consumers of the risks. As a result, thousands of people suffered severe illnesses after using paraquat. To date, approximately 1,000 people have lost their lives.
What Is Paraquat?
Paraquat is used throughout the United States as an inexpensive and effective means of controlling unwanted weed and grass growth. Many farmers use the herbicide to control vegetation between the planting of desired crops. Paraquat is available in the United States in varying strengths and is usually sold in liquid form. Since the weed killer is classified as “for restricted use” by the EPA, people must undergo training and become licensed applicators before loading, mixing, or applying the chemical. More than 10 million pounds of paraquat are used by US farmers on a wide range of crops each year.
How Exposure to Paraquat Occurs
According to the CDC, paraquat poisoning can occur through skin exposure, inhalation, or ingestion.
- Skin Exposure: If skin exposure occurs for an extended period of time, the person’s skin is not intact (has sores, cuts, or rashes), or the concentration of the chemical is high, poisoning is more likely to occur. Friends and family members of exposed agricultural workers who come in frequent contact with clothing, materials in vehicles, and furniture the workers touched can suffer severe side effects from skin exposure as well.
- Inhalation: Paraquat inhalation can result in severe, permanent lung damage. The risk of exposure through inhalation also reaches those who live or work within 1,600 feet of paraquat use.
- Paraquat Ingestion: Despite blue dyes and odor additives to reduce the risk of unintentional consumption, pesticide ingestion continues to be a leading cause of fatal poisoning throughout various parts of the world. The chemical causes direct damage to the lining of the mouth, stomach, and intestines. Once it is ingested, it is distributed throughout the body. A single sip of the chemical can be lethal, and death can occur within hours. There is no antidote.
Signs of Paraquat Exposure
People who are exposed to paraquat may display a variety of symptoms. After skin contact with the contaminant, people may notice rashes, chemical burns, or extreme redness. If skin exposure to paraquat is suspected, people should remove any contaminated clothing, wash their body with soap and water, and seek medical advice immediately.
If someone ingests a significant amount of paraquat, he or she will likely experience pain and swelling in the mouth and throat immediately. Gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain may also occur quickly. Within a few hours to a few days, the victim is likely to experience kidney failure, heart problems, liver failure, muscle weakness, confusion, seizures, coma, and/or death.
Filing a Lawsuit After Paraquat Exposure
People who were injured and the survivors of people who died because of paraquat poisoning can file an injury lawsuit against the manufacturer of the chemical, distributors, or the people who applied the herbicide to recover compensation for medical bills and other losses caused by the exposure. Injury attorneys throughout the United States are currently representing a wide variety of victims including farm and agricultural workers, manufacturing employees, and family members who were exposed.