- A recent study of people newly diagnosed with Parkinson's
disease has found that home pesticide use and exposure is associated with
an increased risk of developing the disease. The study, led by Lorene Nelson,
Ph.D., a neuroepidemiologist at Stanford University's School of Medicine,
in Palo Alto, California, is the largest ever of individuals with newly
diagnosed Parkinson's, and the first to show an association between home
pesticide use and the risk of developing Parkinson's disease. The study's
findings were presented in May 2000, at the American Academy of Neurology's
52nd Annual Meeting in San Diego, and the full report is expected to be
released in early 2001.
- Nelson and her colleagues questioned 496 people who were
first diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1994 and 1995 about their past use
of pesticides in their homes or gardens. The subjects were each asked detailed
questions about types of pesticides used, frequency of use, and when they
were first exposed to household and garden pesticides. The researchers
also asked subjects about their cigarette, alcohol and coffee consumption.
A control group of 541 people without the disease were asked the same questions.
- When researchers compared the life histories of the subjects
and the control group, they found that people exposed to in-home insecticides
were 70% more likely to develop the disease than those who had not been
exposed. The average amount of time that people reported being exposed
to products in this category was 77 days. Exposure to garden insecticides
carried a 50% increased risk of the disease, according to the study. Among
herbicide users, risk of developing Parkinson's increased as the number
of days that people were in contact with herbicides accumulated. Respondents
who reported handling or applying those products for up to 30 days were
40% more likely to develop the disease, whereas respondents that reported
higher levels of exposure, an average of 160 days, had a 70% increased
risk of developing the disease. Exposure to fungicides, while linked to
other health problems, was not determined to be a risk factor for Parkinson's
disease in this study.
- According to Nelson, damage to nerve cells in a part
of the brain called the basal ganglia and subsequent deficiency in the
neurotransmitter dopamine leads to the balance and movement difficulties
characteristic of Parkinson's disease. People exposed to chemicals that
have a certain affinity to this region of the brain may be at particular
risk for developing the disease, says Nelson.
- Source: Technical Report, Beyond Pesticides/National
Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, Vol. 15, No. 7, July 2000.
- Contact: Beyond Pesticides/National Coalition Against
the Misuse of Pesticides, 701 E Street SE, Suite 200, Washington DC 20003;
phone (202) 543-5450; fax (202) 543-4791; http://www.beyondpesticides.org.
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