Paraquat Poisoning: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Paraquat is a chemical that is used in herbicides to kill weed and grass.

It is extremely toxic for humans. In the US, only licensed applicators can use paraquat.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has classified it for restricted use. 

Paraquat has to be used cautiously. 

How do you recognize Paraquat?

Paraquat is dyed blue to prevent mishaps like accidental ingestion.

It can be mistaken for coffee; hence it is dyed blue.

It is also given a sharp odour and a substance that induces vomiting if ingested. 

These guidelines are only for the US. Other countries may not have these modifications. 

How can you be exposed to Paraquat? 

You could be exposed to paraquat if you use Gramoxone, a popular herbicide.

Here’s how you could get poisoned. Anyone who uses this herbicide must be aware of all the Paraquat facts

  • Ingestion – You could accidentally ingest paraquat if it doesn’t have its safeguards in place. 
  • Skin – Skin exposure could be a possibility. The longer the skin is exposed to paraquat, the more the likelihood of poisoning. If the skin is broken with cuts, sores or rashes, the danger of paraquat poisoning increases manifold. 
  • Inhalation – Inhalation of paraquat could lead to lung damage. 

Exposure to Paraquat has been linked to Parkinson’s disease.

In the US, paraquat is marketed as Gramoxone by Syngenta. Its use is growing in the US. 

Paraquat has been banned in 32 countries yet, Syngenta based in Switzerland is still manufacturing herbicides that contain paraquat.

What’s more? Switzerland is one of the countries where paraquat is banned. 

People who have developed Parkinson’s disease may be eligible for compensation for personal injury because of paraquat poisoning by filing Paraquat Parkinson’s lawsuit

How to recognize Paraquat poisoning?

The symptoms of paraquat poisoning are felt as soon as the paraquat comes in contact with the  body.

Immediately after inhalation or ingestion, the individual is likely to experience swelling and pain in the mouth and throat. 

As the paraquat poisons the body initially, the individual will experience 

  • nausea, 
  • vomiting,
  • abdominal pain and 
  • bloody diarrhoea. 

In the next few days, the person may experience 

  • confusion, 
  • muscle weakness, 
  • seizures, 
  • respiratory failure, 
  • fast heart rate and 
  • coma. 

Gastrointestinal symptoms lead to dehydration and low blood pressure.

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There could also be nosebleeds and difficulty breathing.

A case has shown that although a person can recover from paraquat poisoning, it could take a lot of time and medical intervention.

Even ingesting diluted paraquat can lead to severe poisoning.

Ingesting small amounts of paraquat can be fatal too.

The symptoms can be felt several weeks after the poisoning. These could cause 

  • lung scarring, 
  • pulmonary edema, 
  • heart failure, 
  • respiratory failure, 
  • kidney failure and 
  • liver failure. 

Paraquat Poisoning Diagnosis and Treatment

In case of paraquat poisoning, seek immediate help.

There is very limited time to get treated.

The effects of the poison are very rapid. 


The doctors in emergency will prescribe blood and urine tests immediately to check for paraquat levels.

These tests will also help tell the extent of damage.

There will be an in-depth analysis of hydration levels, electrolyte balance and organ function. 


The first step at the hospital will be to eliminate the paraquat from the body.

The first administration is of activated charcoal, either orally or through a nasal tube, depending on the severity of the poisoning.

The activated charcoal will absorb some chemical. 

In case of advanced paraquat poisoning, doctors may prescribe a hemoperfusion.

This procedure filters blood through charcoal to remove the chemical from the blood, particularly the lungs. 

There will be continuous blood and urine tests to monitor the condition.

There will also be chest X-rays and CT scans to look out for lung damage.

The patient may also be on a heart monitor or have an EKG to monitor the heart. 

Unfortunately, paraquat poisoning is so lethal that the damage done can’t be undone, but timely intervention can minimize the damage done.