Science

Parkinson’s disease risk tied to pesticide exposure

By Enozia Vakil , May 29, 2013 09:55 AM EDT
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A whooping 33-80 percent increased risk of suffering from Parkinson's disease is in store for those having prolonged exposure to pesticides, weedicides, insecticides, bug killers, rodent killers and some solvents, a new study shows.

This particular study, which actually involved the analysis of 104 other related studies, was carried out the researchers from the IRCCS University Hospital San Matteo Foundation in Italy. When the researchers looked at the previous studies, they discovered something really shocking-an everyday exposure to pesticides that kill insects and weeds could raise the risk of an individual suffering from Parkinson's disease by a good 33-80 percent.

"In every day clinical practice we frequently see patients reporting such exposure. Accordingly, it appears quite obvious to look at these exposures as risk factors,"study author Emanuele Cereda, MD, Ph.D., said in an interview with Healthline.

Though the study didn't take into consideration the method of exposure, such as absorption through the skin, inhaling or breathing in the pesticides, or some trace amounts remaining in the hands of the farmers or workers who have an everyday exposure to pesticides, it does imply that an increase in the doses of these harmful chemicals could raise the risk even further.

Detection of the risk of an individual suffering from Parkinson's disease may be easily carried out by checking the family history; however, this is not just one sure-shot detection method for Parkinson's disease, given that an exposure to pesticides could trigger it off as well.

"A genetic predisposition may increase the risk brought on by these exposures. Once penetrated in our body, pollutants are metabolized by our enzymatic detoxification systems to be eliminated," Cereda explained.

Usually, the human body is well able to cope up with this strenuous detoxification; but for some individuals, specifically those having a family history of Parkinson's disease, enzymatic activity required for this detoxification is hampered due to certain genetic mutations; which is why, their body systems are less effective in detoxifying themselves, leading to an increase in the detrimental effects of the exposure, and thereby increasing the risk of Parkinson's disease considerably.

True, pesticides are an unavoidable part of our lives today, but certain preventive measures could make a great difference. For farmers, wearing protective goggles and clothing is important - it minimizes the exposure and thereby the risk too.

Switching to organic produce is yet another wise idea, especially if you have a family history of Parkinson's.

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