- Paraquat or Paraquat Dichloride, though a chemical agent, is widely used as an herbicide. Its first production can be traced back to the 19th century but its application as an herbal agent became popular only in the mid-20th century. As an herbicide agent, Paraquat is now used on more than 100 various types of crops.
Is it safe?
Glyphosate is another widely used herbicide and toxic by nature. As per the American Council on Science and Health, Paraquat’s toxicity in comparison with glyphosate ranges between 32 and 250. A dose of around 2.5 grams is considered lethal for an average person. If inhaled, Paraquat produces a more toxic impact on the users. Paraquat is a traditionally popular chemical used to commit suicide because it is powerful enough to kill any adult with a single sip.
Paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease
The National Institute of Health or NIH conducted a Study titled the Farming Movement Evaluation or FAME in February, 2011. They came up with a claim that exposure to Paraquat could pose an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
Soon after the revelation by the study, a Swiss herbicide maker, Syngenta, claimed on their website that the study data and details disclosed that farmers who took Paraquat are at a lesser risk of developing Parkinson’s disease than the average population.
The study’s authors put up vehement argument by attesting that the data from the study explicitly mentioned that the chances of developing Parkinson’s disease is two and a half times more for the individuals who suffered an exposure to Paraquat or Rotenone (a similar herbicide).
Paraquat lawsuits are filed against the manufacturer on the ground that they failed to warn the users about the risk factors and as a result, the plaintiffs have suffered harms due to their exposure to the chemical agent.
FAME Study and Link between Paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease
FAME collected data from the Agricultural Health Study. The latter was a larger project that studied more than 80, 000 peasants, agricultural workers and their spouses. FAME researchers conducted their study on 110 individuals out of identified 115 individuals suffering from Parkinson’s after getting confirmation that that the chosen cohort would disclose relevant information on the frequently used herbicide.
Syngenta held their ground against the findings by claiming that as only 115 individuals out of 80, 000 Iowans and North Carolinians were covered by the Agricultural Health Study, it is not sufficient to prove the link between Paraquat and a greater risk of developing Parkinson’s. The company added that the incidence of developing Parkinson’s seems to be lower than what is found in general US population while trying to offer rationalized statements for their website’s claim.
Dr. Caroline M. Tanner, who is the lead author of the FAME study and the director of the Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education and Clinical Centres at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Centre, refuted the Syngenta’s argument by claiming it “without any base”. According to him, the study chose a small cohort who had Parkinson’s and studied the particular group against a control group.
In reality, FAME hinged on self-reporting from the participants enrolled in the larger Agricultural Health Study. Dr. Freya Kamel, a co-author of the FAME study and a scientist at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, claimed that quite a few people suffering from Parkinson’s did not participate in the study.