Resolving claims over paraquat, an herbicide linked to Parkinson’s disease, may also cost its maker, Swiss chemical giant Syngenta, and its chief distributor, Chevron, billions of dollars.
Dubbed “highly poisonous” by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), paraquat, sold under the brand name Gramoxone, was reapproved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in August.
Over the last seven months, Bloomberg.com says that new paraquat claims have been filed on a daily basis. According to U.S. Right to Know, as of June 23, there were 157 cases pending in state and federal courts. In June, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) ordered all paraquat lawsuits to be consolidated into the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois for pre-trial proceedings, New York Injury Law News reported.
MDL litigation will be overseen by Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel. The Panel chose the Southern District of Illinois based on the area’s heavy usage of paraquat and because of the fact that litigation over the herbicide has been ongoing for years in the district.
Applied mainly to soybean, corn and cotton fields, paraquat is used mostly by farmers and agricultural workers. Because of its risk of toxicity, the herbicide is designated “restricted use.” As such, it may only be applied by licensed applicators.
Some research studies have shown an association between paraquat and Parkinson’s disease, an incurable neurological disorder characterized by tremors, loss of balance and muscle stiffness.
The Agricultural Health Study, a large study of American farmers conducted by multiple U.S. government agencies, said it found that “exposure to agricultural pesticides may increase a person’s risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.”
Syngenta disclosed that in June, it had settled an undisclosed number of paraquat suits for $187.5 million, according to Bloomberg. Since February, over 400 new paraquat complaints have been filed in federal court. Legal experts involved in paraquat litigation estimate that there may eventually be tens of thousands of cases.
Legal experts also predict Syngenta and Chevron will pay billions to resolve paraquat litigation because of recent upholdings of judgments against Monsanto in all three Roundup cases that have concluded in court.