Chemical manufacturer Syngenta is facing legal action over alleged links between its pesticide, Paraquat, and Parkinson’s Disease. The company has been accused of ignoring key health records in its studies. Despite the allegations, Syngenta maintains that there is no evidence linking the toxic pesticide to Parkinson’s. However, legal documents reveal that the company only examined death certificates, not medical records, of workers at its Widnes site.
Syngenta is currently battling lawsuits from thousands of US farmers. The company’s chief medical officer admitted in court documents that they did not investigate whether any living former workers had Parkinson’s Disease, focusing only on causes of death.
Parkinson’s UK, a charity organization, is now urging for more rigorous and independent research into any potential link between pesticides like Paraquat and Parkinson’s.
Paraquat, which is produced in the UK, has been banned for use in the country since 2007. However, it is still manufactured at Syngenta’s plant in Huddersfield and exported to countries such as Japan, Australia, and the US.
Larry Wyles, an 80-year-old former farmer from Lebanon, Pennsylvania, who used the pesticide for over two decades and was later diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, is one of the plaintiffs in the US legal action against Syngenta. He believes that Syngenta should be prohibited from producing Paraquat due to its potential health risks.
Syngenta’s study of workers involved in the manufacture of Paraquat rejected any link with Parkinson’s Disease in 2011 and 2021 by examining causes of death recorded on death certificates. The company claims it has conducted “long-term monitoring” of workers at the site which showed “no increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.”
However, experts argue that Parkinson’s Disease is underreported on death certificates and would not accurately reflect the true number of people affected.
The US regulator, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is currently reviewing the use of Paraquat and considering measures to mitigate any health risks. Despite this, the EPA’s draft report stated that the benefits of using Paraquat outweighed the health risks.
Leading expert Professor Bas Bloem, director of the Radboudumc Center of Expertise for Parkinson & Movement Disorders in the Netherlands, insists that “scientists across the globe are convinced Paraquat is a cause of Parkinson’s.”
Parkinson’s UK and other independent medical experts have also criticized Syngenta’s methodology, stating that a full survey of living workers’ health and medical records would have been more useful.
Syngenta told the BBC that it “is and has always been devoted to pursuing and implementing the best available science to ensure the safety of users and farmers.” They added that “it is important to note that Paraquat is safe when used as directed.”