Protect Workers and the Public from  Parkinson’s Disease: Support H.R. 3817

Last week, U.S. Representative Nydia M. Velazquez introduced legislation to cancel all uses of the pesticide paraquat, which is acutely toxic and strongly linked to Parkinson’s disease. The move is supported by the Unified Parkinson’s Advocacy Council – a group led by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research – as well as other health and environmental groups such as Beyond Pesticides. Paraquat, which is a dangerous, fast-acting nonselective herbicide that kills by burning living tissues, is also unnecessary. Organic agriculture provides an alternative that does not depend on toxic chemicals like paraquat.

>> Tell your U.S. Representative to support H.R. 3817 to cancel the use of paraquat.

According to the EPA, “one small sip [of paraquat] can be fatal, and there is no antidote.” Advocates are pushing for its elimination from the American agriculture system for many reasons, including acute toxicity and organ failure by inhalation, oral intake and dermal absorption; chronic toxicity affecting the eyes, lungs, liver, kidneys and endocrine system; and a higher incidence of various cancers after exposure.

EPA characterizes paraquat as “extremely biologically active and toxic to plants and animals.” The agency has previously determined that exposure to this herbicide harms birds, fish, amphibians and small mammals. Paraquat is significantly harming the federally protected California red-legged frog, and likely is harmful to many other endangered and threatened species of wildlife and plants.

In addition, research indicates low-level chronic exposure significantly increases the risk of Parkinson’s disease. The exact causes of Parkinson’s disease are unknown, although research points to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Certain chemicals, such as paraquat, increase production of reactive oxygen species that may harm cellular structures and cause the disease. Recent research links paraquat and several other herbicides to the development of Parkinson’s pathology and symptoms. The most recent scientific studies indicate:

  • Paraquat increases the likelihood of an exposed person developing Parkinson’s disease;
  • The effect is dose dependent; and
  • When combined with other factors, such as genetic disposition, exposure to the fungicide maneb or the insecticide rotenone, the risk is even greater.

Thirty-two countries, including South Korea, China, Serbia, Zimbabwe and members of the European Union (where the chemical is manufactured and exported), have weighed the benefits and the potential harms posed by paraquat and banned the herbicide.

The economic and emotional costs of living with Parkinson’s are too high to continue allowing the use of an herbicide so strongly linked to the disease. A person with PD spends an estimated $26,400 per year on their care, and Parkinson’s results in an annual economic burden of $19.8 to $26.4 billion in the United States. Many of those costs affect the government because of the significant number of Parkinson’s patients who rely on programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security Disability Insurance.

To protect human and environmental health, harmful chemicals like paraquat should be removed from use. Beyond Pesticides and other organizations stand ready to assist farming communities in transforming pest management by eliminating a reliance on toxic pesticides and adopting organic practices.

>> Tell your U.S. Representative to support H.R. 3817 to cancel the use of paraquat.

Contact Info:

Beyond Pesticides
701 E St SE, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20003
United States