Your Environment, Exposure and Parkinson's

Copied from The Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation Weekly News Update


Is Parkinson’s caused by a toxin in the environment?

Epidemiological studies analyze large populations to understand trends, and identify certain risk factors for disease. Studies do not determine whether an increase risk is true for an individual person but simply the population at large. Although epidemiologic studies identify several potential risk factors, they are clearly not the sole cause. A combination of events or risks must take place to cause the disease such as exposure to a toxin and inheriting the genetic risk (either risk alone would not cause the disease).

Is it in the water? Rural living, pesticide use and well water drinking may be linked to higher rates of Parkinson's. A recent metanalysis once again reinforced these connections (Neurology May 23 2013.) Researchers analyzed 104 studies and found that weed killers paraquat, fungicides maneb and mancozebome increased Parkinson's risk. Add these to other pesticides under study such as rotenone and permethrin (used to kill mosquitos). It is important to realize that most people with everyday exposure and even higher level industrial exposure through their occupation do not develop Parkinson’s. This reinforces the idea that these toxins increase ones risk and other factors such as genetics work together to play a causative role in Parkinson’s

Do certain occupations increase the risk?

Initial reports suggested welders had an increased risk of getting PD yet more recent reports dispute that claim. Trichloroethylene (TCE) a chemical used in dry cleaning also was associated with a greater risk of getting PD. Soldiers exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War are now eligible for disability compensation from the Veterans Administration.

Do Industrial chemicals and metals increase the risk?

Solvents such as TCE and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) may be associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s. Manganese, lead and copper are examples of metals under study.

What about the food we eat? Men who drink milk (but not cheese or other dairy) have a higher risk of Parkinson’s. The problem does not appear to be due to calcium, vitamin or fat present in milk. Whether this is related to chemicals and hormones present in milk or the effect of milk on our body’s physiology is not known. Drinking milk does not change your disease or rate of progression once you have Parkinson’s.

Other foods such as berries, wine, green tea or peppers may reduce your risk!

Author: Monique Giroux, MD


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