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Is It Possible I Was Exposed to Paraquat Without Knowing It?

Alicia Betz
November 1, 2023

Paraquat is a toxic chemical used to kill grasses and weeds in agricultural and other non-residential areas, and it’s commonly used in the United States. It is less commonly used in other countries and is banned in over 50 countries, including the European Union.

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If you believe that you or a loved one were harmed by Paraquat exposure, you may be entitled to compensation.


The dangerous herbicide is not available for sale to the average consumer, so it is unlikely that you have come in direct contact with the chemical while controlling weeds around your home. Paraquat can only be used by certified licensed applicators, and it’s not approved for use in residential areas. This is good news; it means that most people will never be exposed to the herbicide at a dangerous level.

Read Paraquat FAQs: Everything you need to know about Paraquat >>

However, it is still possible that you have been exposed to paraquat via other methods without realizing it. You can be exposed to paraquat by directly touching the liquid, by ingesting it, or by breathing it in through the air. Exposure to paraquat is very dangerous and can even be deadly, which means you’ll want to act quickly if you believe you were exposed. In addition to being used to kill grasses and weeds, some farmers use Paraquat to desiccate, or dry, their crops before harvesting.

Types of paraquat exposure 

Paraquat exposure can happen when you directly touch or ingest the liquid. In most cases, you’ll know if this happens because the liquid in the United States has three added safeguards to prevent ingestion: it’s dyed blue, has a strong smell, and causes you to vomit. However, it is possible to consume food or drink that was contaminated with paraquat that didn’t include the added safeguards. 

Licensed applicators who are trained to work with paraquat can be exposed, particularly if they don’t follow guidelines or wear personal protective equipment (PPE). If you have ever applied paraquat without proper PPE, you may have been exposed. Even a one-time exposure can cause negative health effects. Anyone who has ever applied a commercial-grade herbicide without knowing the active ingredient should consider the possibility of paraquat exposure.

You can also ingest the liquid indirectly if you eat or drink something that was exposed. Even touching food that was exposed to paraquat can be dangerous. Many of us likely ingest very small amounts of paraquat in residue on our food. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “People may be exposed to residues of paraquat through the diet.” Examples of food that might contain paraquat residue include oats, soybeans, potatoes, and rice. The amount ingested in this way is believed to be so small as not to cause harm. However, it is certainly possible for exposure to happen through food, particularly if the food was contaminated with a large amount of paraquat.

You can also be exposed to paraquat through the air. This might happen if you visit a farm that has recently sprayed paraquat. Exposure through the air can also happen to people who live near an agricultural area that uses paraquat. You may have unknowingly breathed in paraquat particles. 

How to tell if you were exposed to paraquat 

If you ingested a blue liquid that smelled strongly and it made you vomit, it’s likely you ingested paraquat. However, if you accidentally ingested paraquat that did not include additives, you may be unaware. Similarly, you could also be unknowingly exposed to paraquat through the air or through large amounts of residue on food. 

Because paraquat is so dangerous, most of the time you will experience symptoms when exposed to any amount of the chemical. In that case, any of these symptoms of paraquat exposure might tip you off:

  • Pain and swelling in your mouth or throat
  • Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and/or diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Low blood pressure
  • Heart failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Lung scarring
  • Liver failure
  • Confusion
  • Coma
  • Fast heart rate
  • Heart injury
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fluid in the lungs
  • Respiratory failure
  • Seizures

Exposure to paraquat often results in acute health problems. In some cases, however, exposure does not produce immediate alarming reactions. Sometimes, exposure can cause latent long-term health consequences, and many people believe paraquat can cause Parkinson’s disease. The CDC does not yet recognize Parkinson’s disease as a symptom of paraquat exposure. However, many individuals have developed Parkinson’s after being exposed to paraquat. 

If you develop one or more of the above symptoms, you may have been exposed to paraquat. 

Read: The 5 Best Balance Exercises for Parkinson's Disease >>

What to do if you were exposed to paraquat

Paraquat exposure should not be taken lightly, as it can lead to very severe health consequences and even death. If you suspect you have been exposed to paraquat, call 911 or head to your nearest emergency room immediately. The faster you get help, the better off you will be.

If the liquid has been spilled or splattered on your body, take off all your clothes and wash with soap and water. Paraquat exposure through the skin is particularly dangerous on broken skin. If you ingested paraquat, it’s important to receive medical care as soon as possible to mitigate the effects of exposure.

Furthermore, if you believe you developed Parkinson’s disease as a result of being exposed to paraquat, you can fight to be compensated for your illness. At Select Justice, we partner with experienced, compassionate attorneys to help you get the outcome you deserve. Our attorneys work on contingency which means that if you don’t win your case, you don’t have to pay. Don’t wait. Contact Select Justice today for a free, no-obligation consultation and begin your journey to justice.

Free Case Evaluation

If you believe that you or a loved one were harmed by Paraquat exposure, you may be entitled to compensation.


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About us

We are here to help you and loved ones advocate for justice. Feel free to send us any questions you might have, either about an injury or the process for pursuing justice so we can help you exercise your rights.

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