Paraquat Poisonings Lead to New EPA Requirements

Published on August 26, 2019 by Sandy Liebhard

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new requirements for Paraquat-containing herbicides last April, in a bid to reduce fatal poisonings related to their use.

Paraquat Poisoning Deaths

Paraquat, the active ingredient, in Syngenta’s Gramoxone, is one of the most popular herbicides in the world. However, it has been banned in the European Union and more than 30 other countries due to its extreme toxicity and possible link to Parkinson’s disease. While the herbicide remains available in the United States, Paraquat is restricted to agricultural and commercial settings, and may not be marketed for residential applications.

Even a single sip of can be fatal, and there is no antidote to reverse Paraquat toxicity.

For that reason, only certified applicators are permitted to spray products that contain the herbicide. Nevertheless, at least 17 fatalities involving Paraquat have occurred in the United States since 2000. Most of the deaths involved accidental ingestion, but three occurred after the herbicide got onto the skin or into the eyes of those working with it.

New Paraquat Training and Labeling Requirements

The EPA is now requiring that all certified Paraquat applicators  to complete agency-approved training every three years “in order to mix, load, apply or handle” the herbicide. Other requirements announced by the agency in April include:

  • Changes to the pesticide label and distribution of supplemental warning materials to highlight the toxicity and risks associated with Paraquat products.
  • New closed-system packaging designed to prevent transfer or removal of the pesticide except directly into proper application equipment. This will prevent spills, mixing, pouring the pesticide into other containers or other actions that could lead to paraquat exposure.

Paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease

Unfortunately, poisoning may not be the only risk associated with Paraquat, as an increasing number of studies have pointed to a possible link with Parkinson’s disease.

In 2009, for example, research published in JAMA Neurology indicated that occupational exposure to the herbicide increased the potential for Parkinson’s by 280%. Two years later, the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) Farming and Movement Evaluation (FAME) study found that farmers and agricultural workers exposed to the herbicide were 2 ½ times more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.

Additional studies have suggested that people with certain genetic factors or traumatic brain injuries are more likely to suffer from Parkinson’s disease after Paraquat exposure.

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