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Is your environment a high risk PD zone?

Thursday July 25, 2013

Is there a toxin or something in the environment that causes Parkinson’s?

Epidemiological studies analyze large populations to understand trends, and identify certain risk factors  for develop of Parkinson’s disease.  It is important to note that these 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

Are there certain areas where Parkinson’s incidence is increased?

Some studies show an increase risk of developing Parkinson’s in more rural farming communities and in areas with well water as a primary source of drinking water.  This may be related to exposure to pesticides in farming community.

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 (TCA) 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.

What about pesticides?

Probably the strongest link between Parkinson’s risk and the environment is the exposure to high level pesticides.  Paraquot, rotenone and permethrin (used to kill mosquitos) are under active study. 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 Industrial chemicals and metals increase the risk?

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

What about the food we eat? Noted only in one small study, 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.

What should I do to reduce my risk?

  • Avoid exposure to pesticides. if you must use them be sure to wear gloves and a mask.
  • Wash all fruit and vegetables
  • Learn about the ‘Dirty dozen’ and ‘Clean Fifteen’. This is a list of fruits and vegetables published each year found to have the highest degree of contamination with pesticides and related chemicals and the safest, respectively
  • Reduce the amount of meat you eat in your diet
  • Eat a diet high in antioxidants (colorful fruits and vegetables.)

Monique L. Giroux, MDMonique L. Giroux, MD
Medical Director, Northwest Parkinson's Foundation

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