Calif. Latino Communities Most at Risk From Brain-Damaging Weed Killer

"Growers’ use of the neurotoxic weed killer paraquat is concentrated in just five agricultural counties, leaving low-income Latinos disproportionately exposed to a chemical linked to Parkinson’s disease, a new analysis shows."

"Evidence linking one of the nation’s most widely used commercial weed killers to Parkinson’s disease first emerged in the 1980s. Yet, even as mounting evidence shows the potent compound destroys brain cells as reliably as it dispatches weeds, federal and state regulators still allow growers to spray millions of pounds of the chemical every year.

California growers sprayed more than 5 million pounds of paraquat between 2017 and 2021, the most recent year recorded, with two-thirds of applications concentrated in just five of the state’s top agricultural counties, where most residents are Latino and low-income, a new analysis from the Environmental Working Group shows.

“Few pesticides are more toxic than paraquat,” said Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs at EWG. “And it’s used heavily in California, in poor Latino communities in particular.”

EWG focused on paraquat because both California and federal regulators are considering petitions to end the use of what the environmental nonprofit considers an unacceptably toxic substance. The weed killer has also been linked to several types of cancer as well as leukemia in children exposed in the womb."

Liza Gross reports for Inside Climate News March 27, 2024.

Source: Inside Climate News, 03/29/2024