Paraquat (dipyridylium) is a highly toxic weed killer once promoted by the United States for use in Mexico to destroy marijuana plants. Research found that this herbicide was dangerous to workers who applied it to the plants. This article discusses the health problems that can occur from swallowing or breathing in Paraquat.
* Burns in throat * Coma * Difficulty breathing * Seizures * Shock * Shortness of breath * Sore throat * Stomach pain * Vomiting
In the United States, Paraquat is classified as "restricted commercial use," and people must obtain a license to use the product. Breathing in Paraquat may cause lung damage and can lead to a disease called Paraquat lung. Paraquat causes damage to the body when it touches the lining of the mouth, stomach, or intestines. You can get sick if Paraquat touches a cut on your skin. Paraquat may also damage the kidneys, liver, and esophagus. If Paraquat is swallowed, death can rapidly occur. Death may occur from a hole in the esophagus, or from acute inflammation of the mediastinum, the area that surrounds the major blood vessels and airways in the middle of the chest. Chronic exposure to Paraquat may cause pulmonary fibrosis, a stiffening of the lung tissue.
Avoid exposure to Paraquat.
You will be asked if you have been exposed to Paraquat. Blood and urine tests will be done to determine how much Paraquat is in your system. Other tests that may be done include: * Arterial blood gases * BUN * Chem-20 * Chest x-ray * Creatinine * Lung function tests * Urinalysis * Urine toxicology screen
The outcome depends on the severity of exposure. Some people may develop mild breathing-related symptoms and have a full recovery, while others may have permanent changes in the lungs. If a person swallowed the poison, death is likely without immediate medical care.
There is no specific treatment for Paraquat poisoning. The goal is to relieve symptoms and treat complications. If the chemical touched your skin, wash the area with soap and water for 15 minutes. There is no need to scrub hard. If the chemical got into your eyes, flush the eyes with water for 15 minutes. If you have swallowed paraquat you should receive activated charcoal as quickly as possible. Sicker patients may need a procedure called hemoperfusion, which filters the blood through charcoal to try to remove paraquat from the lungs.
Alternative Names: Paraquat poisoning