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Study examines link between pesticide exposure and thyroid cancer

Researchers have found a link between thyroid cancer and certain pesticides in a new study highlighting concerns about how exposure affects human health. Study authors from the University of California, Los Angeles looked at more than 2,000 cases of thyroid cancer and found an association between pesticide exposure and the disease. Researchers found a link between thyroid cancer and ten pesticides, including paraquat dichloride and glyphosate. These are two of the most common weed killers in the world, and they’ve been linked to other serious health issues in the past. Companies that make paraquat and glyphosate products are embroiled in thousands of lawsuits from people who claim exposure to herbicides made them sick.

Paraquat is an organic chemical commonly used as a commercial herbicide. It is highly effective and relatively inexpensive, making it an ideal choice for farmers and agricultural producers. It is not accessible to the general public and only licensed applicators are permitted to use the pesticide. These applicators must undergo EPA-approved training and wear protective equipment. Even with these precautions, paraquat is very dangerous. One sip is enough to kill; prolonged exposure has been associated with heart failure, reproductive problems, and Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder caused by the breakdown of nerve cells. Common symptoms are uncontrollable shaking, stiffness when walking, and depression. It is a degenerative disease, which means it gets worse over time. Within ten years of diagnosis, patients usually have serious health problems. Some are unable to walk or stand, while others suffer from dementia. Paraquat manufacturer Syngenta has faced many paraquat trial plaintiffs diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease after exposure to paraquat.

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, the world’s most popular weed killer. Agricultural company Monsanto introduced the herbicide to the market in 1974. In 2016, approximately 287 million pounds were sprayed on US crops. Roundup is economical and widely marketed to gardeners and farmers who need to kill broadleaf weeds and grasses, and is available on the shelves of most home improvement stores. It has also been linked to certain types of cancer.

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as “probably” carcinogenic to humans. Other researchers later challenged this finding after reporting that the IARC ignored conflicting evidence, but other studies have linked Roundup to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Thousands of people have since sued Bayer. (The pharmaceutical company acquired Monsanto in 2018 and inherited its Roundup litigation.) The plaintiffs allege that Monsanto failed to warn of the potential risks of using Roundup. Bayer plans to stop selling Roundup for residential use in 2023.

Lawsuits against paraquat and roundup

Plaintiffs have won significant victories in lawsuits against pesticide manufacturers. Bayer has set aside up to $10.9 billion to resolve Legal proceedings two years ago and paid significant compensation to cancer patients. A California couple who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after exposure to Roundup won $86.7 million, while a former school gardener with terminal cancer received $20.5 million. Bayer appealed those verdicts to the U.S. Supreme Court, but ultimately did not prevail. The drug company has had better luck recently, winning its last five Roundup jury trials.

Paraquat litigation has been grouped into multi-district litigation (MDL). MDLs are often used in dangerous drug and defective product cases where plaintiffs have been similarly affected. All claims are transferred to a single court and presided over by the same judge, which makes case resolution more efficient. Multidistrict litigation involves test cases, called showpiece trials, to let all parties know how future litigation might unfold. The first paraquat indicator trial is scheduled for the end of 2022.

Will Thyroid Cancer Findings Impact Litigation?

The UCLA study is the first to show that pesticide exposure may increase thyroid cancer, which has important implications for thyroid cancer patients. These findings could help people diagnosed with thyroid cancer after pesticide exposure to sue manufacturers who failed to warn them of the cancer risk. The study authors say more research is needed, but the evidence presented could pave the way for future lawsuits against Bayer and Syngenta. Thyroid cancer patients with a history of pesticide use should contact an attorney to discuss potential legal options.