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Paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease: Why Is the EPA Allowing Dangerous Chemical To Be Used?

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Paraquat spraying in field

Paraquat is a highly dangerous product still manufactured and sold in the United States. Manufacturers have for some time known the direct connection between paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease, but continue to sell it.

Paraquat, which is used extensively by farmers and ranchers across the country, basically destroys everything it is sprayed on, including but not limited to weeds. If it is green and growing and the chemical is applied to it, death is imminent.

Paraquat is used to destroy all plant and grass growth on farms, typically between planting of desired crops,” “Once harvest is complete, farmers apply paraquat to what remains, essentially obliterating everything above ground. Think of napalm. This practice eliminates time consuming and expensive tilling.”

The problem is, unwanted vegetation is not the only thing paraquat is obliterating. The human death toll is nearing the 1,000 mark.

“Paraquat, one of the most acutely lethal pesticides still in use today, is implicated in around 100 poisoning incidents in the USA each year, resulting in at least one death per year since 2012,” according to an Environmental Health article titled “The USA lags behind other agricultural nations in banning harmful pesticides.” “In addition to numerous incidents of acute poisonings, multiple states have determined that current US EPA regulations are not protective enough for some of these pesticides and have opted to place greater restrictions on use than the US EPA requires.”

Environmental Health, a journal written for practitioners and scientists involved in the health and well-being of the planet and its population, further reports that paraquat and another chemical called phorate “are the only two pesticides still used in the USA that are banned or being phased out in the EU, China and Brazil.”

Despite the foreign bans, use of paraquat has skyrocketed in the United States. Today, its use is higher than it has been in 20-plus years, rising an approximate 200 percent since 2009. Now it has been linked to Parkinson’s disease (PD).

“A growing body of evidence suggests pesticides may play a role in Parkinson’s disease (PD) in humans,” according to an Environmental Health Perspectives article titled “Rotenone and Paraquat Linked to Parkinson’s Disease: Human Exposure Study Supports Years of Animal Studies.” “Self-reported PD has been associated with lifetime use of pesticides, and animal studies have suggested that the pesticides paraquat and rotenone can cause oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction, respectively – posited mechanisms of action in PD – as well as symptoms in rodents similar to human PD. Now, researchers have linked human exposure to paraquat and rotenone with PD…the first analysis of pesticides classified by presumed mechanism of action rather than by intended use or chemical class.”

Environmental Health Perspectives is produced monthly by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to research relationships between human health and environmental factors.

“The results may have far-reaching implications, considering the widespread use of these pesticides,” the article continues. “Paraquat remains one of the most widely used herbicides worldwide, and rotenone was used ubiquitously before most uses were voluntarily stopped in the United States in 2007.”

One of the rather grotesque reasons for paraquat’s spike in sales is because many weeds have developed a resistance to another popular chemical – glyphosate, known more commonly as Roundup and the root of a similar slew of lawsuits involving non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Sadly, what Roundup is to cancer, paraquat is to brain disorders. The Michael J. Fox Foundation – named after the actor who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991 at age 29 – has been advocating arduously for legal action.

“Leading research has shown that exposure to paraquat significantly increases the risk of a person developing PD,” the foundation wrote in an Aug. 4, 2020 press release titled “News from DC: New Bill on Congress Floor to Ban Paraquat, Herbicide Linked to Parkinson’s Disease.” Over 30 countries around the world – including the European Union and China, the home of several companies who manufacture and export the chemical – have banned paraquat. But the herbicide is still used widely in the United States – in fact, its use is increasing due to crops’ resistance to other kinds of pesticides. Paraquat is dangerous to Americans who work in food and agriculture, but also to everyone who eats food treated with it, as there can be herbicide residue on fruits, vegetables and the soil.”

The Protect Against Paraquat Act is pending in Congress. The bill “requires the Environmental Protection Agency to cancel the registration for all uses of the pesticide paraquat” and “prohibits the sale and use of existing stock of paraquat.”

“The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) believes that all Americans should be protected from potential exposure to paraquat and that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should ban this dangerous chemical,” according to the press release. “In 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency announced its review of paraquat’s registration. In response to this, MJFF, along with the Unified Parkinson’s Advocacy Council submitted comments and a petition with 107,000 community signatories, urging a ban.”

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