Pestering Parkinson’s

By • Published: June 20th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

The evidence is far too flimsy to convict bug and weed killers for causing Parkinson’s disease, but a new study suggests the case requires further investigation.

Researchers from Duke University and the University of Miami interviewed three-hundred-nineteen Parkinson’s patients and more than two-hundred of the patients’ relatives.

Scientists asked the volunteers about their exposure to pesticides and whether they lived in rural areas.

Previous studies have tenuously linked Parkinson’s and pesticides, but this was the first to also take healthy relatives of the patients into account.

By studying family members who share environmental and genetic backgrounds, scientists said they could more clearly see an association between the disease and exposure levels.

Lifestyle factors such as farm living and use of well water… previously associated with pesticide exposure and Parkinson’s in studies… did not appear to make a difference in whether someone had the disorder.

However, the researchers did indeed find an association between Parkinson’s and more frequent, cumulative contacts with pesticides.

The alleged culprits in the pest killers are called “organochlorides” and “organophosphates.”

About one million people in the United States have Parkinson’s disease. It typically develops later in life and causes tremors and muscle rigidity.

For now, health experts say the biological evidence is far too sketchy to convict pesticides for causing Parkinson’s.

But while the jury is out, minimizing exposure and strictly following the safe-handling directions that come with pesticides and herbicides is not only recommended, it’s healthy judgment.