Daily News Archive
From January 22, 2002

Pesticides and Parkinson's Disease Link Strengthened

Parkinson's disease, a neurodegenerative disorder that turns simple movement into a battle between the brain and the nerves, has been increasingly linked to pesticide and herbicide exposure.

The first connection was made in the early 1980's, when young people illegally taking an impure form of Demerol (MPTP) exhibited symptoms of an advanced form of Parkinson's. The chemical structure of MPTP resembles that of the herbicide paraquat. More recently, a Stanford study found that Parkinson's patients were twice as likely to have been exposed to herbicides and in-house insecticides were more likely to develop the disease.

A large case-controlled study at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, MI confirmed the connection. "Contact with herbicides gave people a four times greater chance of developing Parkinson's," according to Dr. Jay M. Gorell, head of the Movement Disorders Clinic in the Neurology Department. People exposed to insecticides were 3.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson's than those with no history of pesticide exposure.

The study also found that farmers were 2.8 times as likely to have Parkinson's than the general population.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began an ongoing study in 1999 to calculate the public's exposures to environmental contaminants through blood and urine samples. The results of the initial CDC National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals confirm that the general population has contaminant levels exceeding those set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The CDC data is especially significant because only known ill effects, usually acute poisonings, not chronic exposures determine EPA guidelines. EPA also only tests chemicals separately instead of examining effects of combinations of compounds.

The full story can be viewed at http://www.enn.com/news/enn-stories/2002/01/01182002/s_46080.asp.