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Serious Health Issues Related to Herbicide Paraquat

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

Paraquat, the herbicide that is so dangerous it requires a commercial license for its application, is drawing the attention of the nation’s healthcare providers.  The renowned Mt. Sinai hospital here in New York has dedicated a whole section of its website to the health dangers of Paraquat.

According to the Mt. Sinai site,

“Breathing in paraquat may cause lung damage and can lead to a disease called paraquat lung. paraquat causes damage to the body when it touches the lining of the mouth, stomach, or intestines. You can get sick if paraquat touches a cut on your skin. Paraquat may also damage the kidneys, liver, and esophagus (the tube that food goes down from your mouth to your stomach).

If paraquat is swallowed, death can quickly occur. Death may occur from a hole in the esophagus, or from the severe inflammation of the area that surrounds the major blood vessels and airways in the middle of the chest.

Long-term exposure to paraquat may cause scarring of the lungs called pulmonary fibrosis. This makes it hard to breathe.”

In Europe, some countries have banned the product outright.  Frankly, it’s hard to understand why the United States has not taken similar measures given the severe health risks the herbicide poses. 

If you or a loved one have been exposed to this lethal herbicide, here are some of the symptoms that are tell-tale signs of Paraquat exposure:

Symptoms of paraquat poisoning include:

While there is no specific treatment for Paraquat poisoning, healthcare workers will concentrate on relieving the symptoms in most cases.  According to Mt. Sinai, these are some of the procedures to follow if you’ve been exposed to Paraquat:

  • Removing all contaminated clothing.
  • If the chemical touched your skin, wash the area with soap and water for 15 minutes. Do not scrub hard, because that could break your skin and let more of the paraquat absorb into your body.
  • If the paraquat got into your eyes, flush them with water for 15 minutes.
  • If you have swallowed paraquat, get treated with activated charcoal as quickly as possible in order to decrease the amount absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract. Sicker people may need a procedure called hemoperfusion, which filters the blood through charcoal to try to remove paraquat from the lungs.

At the hospital, you will likely receive:

  • Activated charcoal by mouth or a tube through the nose into the stomach if the person presents for help within an hour of ingesting the poison
  • Breathing support, including oxygen, tube through the mouth into the throat, and breathing machine
  • Fluids through a vein (by IV)
  • Medicine to treat symptoms

We are taking Paraquat poisoning cases and speaking with those unfortunate to have been exposed to this lethal product.  To have a viable Paraquat case, the diagnosis must indicate Paraquat exposure and it must be documented with clear proof that the exposure was due to the licensed, commercial use of the product.

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