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Studies Strengthen Link Between Pesticides and Parkinson’s

(Beyond Pesticides, April 24, 2007) Three recent studies were presented earlier this month at the Parkinson’s Disease Environmental Research meeting in California strengthening the theory that pesticides increase risk of the disease. The studies clarify how pesticide exposure can lead to the development of Parkinson’s.

Two pesticides named in the studies are paraquat and dieldrin, both of which have been linked to Parkinson’s in the past. The three new studies, however, combine information from human and animal studies to show how exposure can lead to onset of the disease. As William Langston, M.D., founder of the Parkinson’s Institute, told Reuters, “All of these pieces really look like they are coming together now.”

The first study examined a cohort of 80,000 licensed private pesticide applicators and spouses. Researchers found farm workers exposed to paraquat had twice the expected risk of Parkinson’s.

The second and third studies address a protein called alpha-synuclein. The second study shows the protein builds up in rodents exposed to paraquat. The third study connects this protein to Parkinson’s by finding that the protein kills the dopamine-producing brain cells affected by the disease.

One common difficulty in tracking pesticide-induced diseases is the amount of time that passes between exposure and the onset of disease. In these studies, pesticide exposure could be accurately tracked by records of pesticide purchase, details of which will be published later, according to Dr. Langston.

The study of laboratory animals could be the missing link in proving causation of Parkinson’s. Donato Di Monte, M.D., of the Parkinson’s Institute, said of the protein buildup, “This increase in alpha-synuclein in the brain could be the missing link between the exposure to this agent and how this agent causes the disease.” In addition, Dr. Langston said brain inflammation during pesticide exposure greatly increased the risk of Parkinson’s in later years, as “systemic inflammation may somehow sensitize the brain.”

These studies are only the latest linking pesticides, particularly paraquat, to Parkinson’s disease. For previous Daily News stories on the subject (and other health effects), click here.

Source: Reuters


4 Responses to “Studies Strengthen Link Between Pesticides and Parkinson’s”

  1. 1
    Stev Fiscus Says:

    1. I represent a group of Viet Nam veterans whole have been exposed to Agent Orange and have developed Parkinson. Right now we have information on over forty veterans with Parkinson.
    We are not Iraq veterans, but Vietnam Veterans that are not getting any better service. We are a growing national interest group of Agent Orange/Parkinson’s Veterans that nothing is being done for. The VA just turns their head the other way. We have research that has been done at notable Centers across the USA the past 2 years that proves herbicides can cause Parkinson if you have the right genetic disposition. The IOM states they will not look at this research for another 2 years. This is men’s lives! The Parkinson’s Institute is going to report to the Collaborate Centers for Parkinson’s Disease Enviromental Research that pesticides are a potential risk factor for Parkinson’s Disease, a role suggested by both epidemiological statistics and laboratory evidence. Dr. Maraganore from the Mayo Clinic in Minn. states their studies confirm what has been found in previous studies; that exposure to herbicides, insecticides and other pesticides increases the risk for Parkinson’s. What we think may be happening is that the chemicals with other risk factors in men’s environment or genetic makeup, cause them to cross over the threshold into developing the disease. We have quite a few of these research studies saying this, but the VA does not acknowledge this. This is quite a knock to all our great research centers across the US. We are continuing to collect Agent Orange Parkinson Vets, getting Senators to help us, and will go for public publicity when we are ready. It is strange if this is not related to Agent Orange that all of these men got Parkinson’s in their 40’s and 50’s rather than typically at a older age.
    Thank You for your time
    [email protected]
    Agent Orange /Parkinson’s Vets
    Gary Nickel
    Thank you
    Steve Fiscus
    [email protected]
    If you want more information about us email Terry or myself

  2. 2
    Elaine Hazlett-Boyd Says:

    Great study & way to go all you vets that have proceeded with the Parkinson & pesticide/herbiside studies!!! We are pioneers in this research gathering. I too have been at this for 3 years for my husband who has Parkinson’s; he is 79 yrs old. Was strayed with DDT while in the Philippines by Army jeeps that once a week for two years!!! This was about 50 yrs. ago but the Parkinson’s just showed up five years ago. My husband has a predisposition as his dad had a neurological disorder also. So we are trying to find other vets about 79 yrs. old that were sprayed with the DDT also.
    Any suggestions? He applied for comensation but was denyed twice by the VA saying he had to prove he was sprayed.
    Thank you for your work.
    Elaine Boyd

  3. 3
    Elaine Hazlett-Boyd Says:

    Please contact us at [email protected] regarding the above comment.

  4. 4
    Claire Heffernan Says:

    We are in the process of trying to obtain a service related disability rating for my husband. He served as a chemical corps officer from 1966-1968 at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal in Denver, Colorado. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease at the age of 46, retired on full disability at 53 and is now requiring full time care due to PD related dementia.

    He was not exposed to Agent Orange, but rather to an array of other herbicides, pesticides, mustard gas and sarin gas among other toxins. The RMA has been ranked among the most polluted sites in the country and became a Superfund Cleanup site. One of the contaminants, dieldrin (a pesticide), has been linked to early onset Parkinson’s.

    Does anyone know of any other evidence, anecdotal or otherwise of other cases from the Rocky Mountain Arsenal?

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