A class-action lawsuit was filed this week against agrochemical giant Syngenta on behalf of all Quebecers diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease after repeated exposure to the pesticide Gramoxone.
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The original request was filed Monday in the Superior Court of the District of Saint-Hyacinthe. At the end of July, the judge accepted the request for authorization to carry out this collective action and thus gave the green light to the filing of the action.
Gramoxon is the trade name of a herbicide with the active ingredient paraquat. It was licensed for use in Canada in 1963.
“Paraquat is the most acutely toxic herbicide to come on the market in the last 60 years,” the 40-page challenge reads.
Defendants [Syngenta et ses filiales] knew or should have known that exposure to Gramoxon could cause or be associated with Parkinson’s disease […] thus creating a dangerous and disproportionate risk to those exposed to it.
Excerpt from the class action lawsuit
The representative of the group is Jean-François Lebeau. He was exposed to the substance between 1974 and 1985 while helping out in an orchard belonging to his in-laws in Saint-Paul-d’Abbotsford. At least five times a year, he participated in the preparation of the mixture and the injection of the product. At the age of 66, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, an incurable neurodegenerative disease.
The appeal emphasizes that the plaintiff has no family history of the disease and that he underwent genetic testing to determine the most common risks of the disease, which came back negative.
Mr. Lebeau’s medical records were reviewed by a “prominent” neurologist specializing in Parkinson’s disease, Dr.year Timothy Greenamyre. ” Guidedyear Greenamyre concluded that it was more likely than not that exposure to this product caused plaintiff Lebeau’s illness,” the appeal states.
The claim statement states that a person may be exposed by inhalation of airborne particles after spraying, by inadvertent ingestion of soil, dust or chemical residues, or by skin contact.
“Each of these routes of exposure can lead to systemic toxicity, that is, toxicity to the blood system, and once paraquat enters the bloodstream, it goes to the brain,” he says.
The event also targets any Quebecer who is a spouse, father, mother, child, brother, sister or caregiver who is suffering or has suffered harm because that person has developed Parkinson’s disease. It is Mr. Lebeau’s wife, Andrée Tremblay, who is the representative of this second group that is targeted by the class action.
The plaintiffs are the carers of the adult son of Mrs.me Tremblay, who has trisomy 21. “Applicant Lebeau is no longer able to assist with certain physical maneuvers necessary for this role,” the application points out.
M. Lebeau and Mme Tremblay is represented by Siskinds Desmeules. They are asking the court to order Syngenta to pay the class members “an amount to be determined” as compensation for the physical, moral and material damages they have suffered and will continue to suffer. They are also seeking “an amount to be determined” in punitive damages.
As of 2021, Parkinson’s disease is recognized by the Quebec government as an occupational disease for farmers, agronomists and pesticide applicators who have been exposed to pesticides for more than ten years. Since 2012, this has also been the case in France and since 2017 in Sweden.
According to Health Canada, there are no longer any products that contain paraquat registered in Canada.
“As of March 2022, the Canadian manufacturer has voluntarily terminated the registration of a product containing paraquat,” spokesman Mark Johnson said in an emailed statement.
Neither Syngenta spokeswoman Christina Stroud nor the three McCarthy Tétrault lawyers representing the company responded to our emails.
Roundup at the dock
Paraquat is not the first pesticide to find itself in the dock. The herbicide glyphosate, sold under the name Roundup by Monsanto-Bayer, is also the subject of several class action lawsuits in Canada. In May 2019, a woman who suffered from stage 4 cancer filed a class action lawsuit in Quebec against Monsanto. It sought 10 million in punitive damages for all Quebecers exposed to Roundup since 1976 who were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. However, in December 2020, proceedings in this case were temporarily suspended as the Ontario Superior Court of Justice is already seized by a “national scope” lawsuit with the same basis and involving Quebec residents.