Legislation Proposed to Ban Paraquat Herbicide Linked to Parkinson’s Disease

Published on September 3, 2019 by Sandy Liebhard

A bill recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives is seeking to ban paraquat, an herbicide linked to Parkinson’s disease.

Dozens of Countries Already Ban Paraquat

Paraquat is the active ingredient in Syngenta’s Gramoxone.

Paraquat bans are already on the books in the European Union and more than 30 countries, including China and Brazil, because of its extreme toxicity and other health concerns. Yet, over the past decade, application of paraquat has grown by more 80% in the United States. It is frequently used to eradicate “super weeds” that are resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto Roundup.

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation to ban paraquat in July.

“Paraquat is likely the most toxic herbicide employed in American farming at this time,” Velázquez said in a statement announcing the bill. “Its health effects are well documented, and I believe it is time we remove this dangerous chemical from commerce.”

Paraquat Health Concerns

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has concluded that paraquat exposure harms birds, fish, amphibians, and small mammals.

Multiple studies also suggest that farmers and agriculture workers exposed to paraquat face a significantly increased risk of Parkinson’s disease.

Just one sip of paraquat can prove deadly. In fact, 17 people have died after accidentally drinking paraquat during the past 19 years. Three others died after the herbicide entered their bodies through the skin and eyes. Even low doses of paraquat can cause eye damage, kidney or heart failure, lung damage, and liver injury.

Yet the EPA has not moved to ban paraquat. Instead, the agency only allows certified applicators who’ve undergone specialized training to use the weed killer.

Support for Paraquat Ban

Velázquez’s bill to ban paraquat herbicides has garnered support from numerous environmental groups, as well as advocates for Parkinson’s disease patients and agricultural workers.

“More than one million Americans live with Parkinson’s, and it would be irresponsible to continue to allow the use of a chemical that is a known contributor to this disease,” said Todd Sherer, PhD, CEO of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. “Parkinson’s costs the U.S. $52 billion each year, with more than $25 billion of that shouldered by government programs including Medicare and Social Security. Banning paraquat will help ease the future burden on those programs, by helping to reduce the number of people who develop Parkinson’s.”

“It’s nothing short of alarming that paraquat use has nearly doubled in the U.S. at the same time it’s being outlawed in China, Brazil and Europe,” said Emily Knobbe, EPA policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We are grateful that Rep. Velazquez introduced this long-overdue bill to finally ban this dangerous herbicide that our own EPA calls ‘extremely’ toxic to plants and animals.”

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