In-Home Pesticide Exposure Increases Parkinsonís Risk
SAN DIEGO, CA Ė Pesticide use and exposure in the home and
garden increase the risk of developing Parkinsonís disease, according to a
study of almost 500 people newly diagnosed with the disease. Researchers
announced their findings at a presentation at the American Academy of
Neurologyís 52nd annual meeting in San Diego, CA, April 29 Ė May 6, 2000.
"This study is the largest yet of newly diagnosed individuals with
Parkinson's disease and it is the first study to show a significant
association between home pesticide use and the risk of developing
Parkinson's disease," said study lead author Lorene Nelson, PhD, a
neuroepidemiologist at Stanford University School of Medicine. The
preliminary results from this study mirror what is already known about the
increased risk of Parkinson's disease associated with occupational exposure
The researchers questioned 496 people who had been diagnosed with
Parkinson's disease about past use of pesticides. Each patient was asked if
they had used or been exposed to insecticides in the home or garden,
herbicides or weed killers in the garden, or fungicides to control mold or
mildew in the home or garden. Researchers asked detailed questions about
past pesticide use including first exposures and frequency of pesticide
The Parkinsonís patientsí lifetime histories were then compared to 541
people without the disease. Researchers found that people who had been
exposed to pesticides were approximately two times more likely to develop
Parkinson's disease than people not exposed to pesticides.
In-home exposure to insecticides carried the highest risk of developing
the disease. Parkinsonís patients were more than twice as likely to have
been exposed to insecticides in the home than those without the disease.
Past exposure to herbicides was also associated with the disease, whereas
exposure to insecticides in the garden and fungicides were not found to be
Damage to nerve cells in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra
leads to the movement difficulties characteristic of Parkinson's disease.
Therefore, people exposed to chemicals that have a particular affinity for
this region of the brain may be at particular risk for developing the
"Certain chemicals that an individual is exposed to in the environment
may cause selective death of brain cells or neurons," stated Nelson. "If we
could understand why these neurons are being killed in certain
circumstances, we can then try and prevent it."
But Nelson cautioned that more studies are needed before any conclusive
statements can be made about the causes of Parkinson's disease, including
any genetic influence on a person's probability of developing the disease.
Nelson also stressed that the results of the study must be interpreted
with caution. "No specific guidelines regarding avoidance of pesticides can
be given at this time but, in general, this is an area of public health
importance that needs to be pursued," said Nelson.
Parkinsonís disease is a slowly progressive, neurodegenerative disease
that affects more than 500,000 people in the United States. Parkinsonís
causes the loss of dopamine, a chemical in the brain, which results in
muscle stiffness and rigidity, slowness in movement and tremor of the arms
The National Institutes of Health provided funding for the study.
The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 16,500
neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving
patient care through education and research. For more information about the
American Academy of Neurology, visit its Web site at
http://www.aan.com. For online neurological
health and wellness information, visit NeuroVista at
Editor's Note: The original news release can be found
here. This story has been adapted from a news release issued by American
Academy Of Neurology.
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