In the heartland farmers mix their sweat with technology, math, management/sales skills to feed nations. Those who do it and live around it are the most susceptible to effects of toxic chemicals used to control weeds and prepare crops for harvest. Paraquat, one of the most widely used herbicides in America, doubles the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, especially among agricultural workers, growing research indicates.
Paraquat dichloride (aka, Gramoxone) is a highly toxic, cheap, imported herbicide introduced here in the early 1960s. A decade ago the spray regained popularity after plants apparently quit responding to Roundup (glyphosate). Many of us recall Roundup’s link to greater risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Monsanto didn’t warn consumers and paid a whopping $10.9 billion last June to settle 100,000 cases.
The rise in paraquat application has been correlated to a shocking surge in Parkinson’s disease. “People who used paraquat developed Parkinson’s disease approximately 2.5 times more often than non-users,” NIH (National Institute of Health) reported back in 2011.
Parkinson’s is a movement disorder that attacks the nervous system. Michael J. Fox’s tragic illness has brought it into our homes. PD begins by numbing or stiffening tiny muscle reflexes, causing hand tremors, blank staring or soft speech. It may progress to full paralysis of speech, facial movements and limbs with degrees of mental confusion.
Sometime the disease mimics multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, ALS or Alzheimer’s but it’s completely separate. The similarities only make diagnosis more difficult.
Up to 15% of all PD is genetically predicted, especially before age 50; about twice as many victims are men. It is caused by a complex interaction of genes, lifestyle and environmental influences, the latter categorized by: head injury, place of residence, and exposure to herbicides/pesticides.
Syngenta is one of the largest paraquat producers, a Chinese-owned agrichem producer headquartered in Switzerland, also operating in the UK. Paraquat use is strictly forbidden in these countries before exportation to the U.S.—11,000,000 pounds last year.
More than 60 countries, including the entire European Union (EU), have banned paraquat. But not the United States. Disputing years of virulent protest from non-government organizations, trade unions, and scientists, the EPA has repeatedly reassessed and re-approved its “restricted” use, on condition that only “certified licensed applicators” may administer it.
“Licensed applicators” are similar to firefighters in the sense that they are equipped with industrial protective gear and taught how to minimize exposure to intentional risks. The similarity ends there, because every firefighter gets the gear and training whereas this protocol fails to acknowledge dozens of workers operating under licensed supervisors, and those in close proximity who are best reminded of danger by the stench and singular blue color dye. One sip is lethal.
Sadly, the EPA on August 1, 2021 reapproved use of paraquat, reigniting a seething debate over the controversial, not-really-restricted chem substance linked to causing Parkinson’s disease, primarily (but not only) in agricultural workers. The interim decision upends the draft outlined last October, which proposed an aerial ban on all applications except cotton desiccation.
If you are experiencing symptoms of Parkinson’s disease or if you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and you have lived or worked in farm lands where herbicides may have been used, please contact us asap for a confidential and free consultation.