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Mar 21, 2014

Environmental Toxins Increase Parkinson’s Risk

Ambient levels of pesticides combine with genetics to increase Parkinson’s disease risk.

Pesticides have been implicated in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease (PD) for decades. Epidemiological data consistently shows that there are higher rates of PD in farm workers, rural dwellers and those who have greater pesticide exposure.

In an on-going study called the PEG study, it was found that how one metabolizes pesticides may be more important than exposure itself.  Many other gene mutations have been found to only be relevant when both the genetic variation and exposure to pesticides is present.

Another important thing to note from the PEG study is that exposure to pesticides after 1990, is not associated with increased risk. This may be due to taking better precautionary measures in the workplace as well as at home. It may also be an artifact of the long evolution of toxic neurodegeneration. Likely, it is due to stopping the use of the most toxic ALDH2 inhibiting agent, dieldrin. In the present study, exposure to dieldrin, which is currently banned in all developed countries, raised the risk of developing PD 8-fold in those with exposures at work and home. It is hopeful that futher study will help to shed light on direct causation of PD, and that the more toxic compounds will be identified and removed completely from use.