NWPF

News ArchivesRead News

Parkinson’s research paints a grim picture

Wednesday December 28, 2005

December 27, 2005(StarTribune.com) - Research on Parkinson’s disease is converging toward a grim conclusion -- that it is almost always an environmental illness, caused by pesticides and other industrial chemicals.

Worse, it seems in some cases to result from long-term, low-dose exposure to multiple products, each of which may have been used within safety guidelines. This is the nightmare scenario of chemically induced disease.

Scientists have long pointed out that the 80,000 or so industrial chemicals released into the environment have been certified as safe based on short-term, one-at-a-time testing in animal labs. But in real life we acquire multiple toxins, even before birth, and many accumulate in our bodies.

What kind of damage might that do? Parkinson’s appears to offer an especially credible example, according to a powerful summary of research recently published in the Los Angeles Times.

This disease, in which the brain gradually loses control over the body, follows damage to a structure called the substantia nigra, whose cells produce the neurotransmitter dopamine. Usually it develops gradually, and in people older than 55; only one case in 20 can be explained by physical injury (Muhammad Ali, for example) or genetic abnormality.

Pesticides have long been linked, at least loosely, to neurological damage in people who use them. The specific connection to Parkinson’s has been researched since the early 1980s, after a California neurologist saw the disease develop virtually overnight in a 42-year-old heroin addict who, it turned out, had wrecked his substantia nigra by injecting a chemical cousin of the weedkiller paraquat.

Subsequent animal studies have associated similar damage with several specific pesticides, as well as with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

But the most chilling possibilities are raised by findings that pesticides which may be safe individually can be devastating when administered together or in sequence, in ways that mimic routine human exposure -- even at very low doses.

Pesticide companies and government regulators defend the current practice of testing each chemical product in isolation, arguing that it’s impossible to check out all the possible combinations that arise in the environment. True enough, but the Parkinson’s findings suggest that a much more manageable task -- examining the combined impact of pesticides routinely used together -- is long overdue.

Recent News

May 20 - Book Review: Aging in the Key of Humor
May 19 - Press Release: The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research Joins Multinational Critical Path for Parkinson's Consortium
May 19 - Congress reaches deal to overhaul chemical regulation
May 16 - Lifestyle: Why Parkinson's disease won't stop me rowing across the Pacific
May 16 - Many biomarkers for PD fail to inform on progression
May 10 - Parkinson's Cell Transplant Shows Good Reinnervation at 24 Years
May 7 - Growing art installation gathers stories of living with Parkinson's
May 5 - New technique can provide better cell transplants against Parkinson's disease
May 2 - What's Good For The Heart Is Good For The Brain
Apr 29 - Press Release: FDA approves first drug to treat hallucinations and delusions associated with Parkinson’s disease
Apr 28 - Dopamine-making neurons can be chemically controlled in animal model of Parkinson's
Apr 25 - Lifestyle: Dating with Disease
Apr 25 - Scientific breakthrough in fight against Parkinson's and Alzheimer's
Apr 20 - Breakthrough Parkinson's disease blood test
Apr 15 - Living with Parkinson's
Apr 12 - Tissue biomarker for dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease
Apr 11 - Yoga for Every Body: Experts say yoga can ease pain and improve mobility for people with neurologic conditions
Apr 9 - Commonly prescribed Parkinson's drugs up risk of compulsive gambling, shopping, binge eating, hypersexuality
Apr 7 - Pfizer and IBM Launch Innovative Research Project to Transform Parkinson's Disease Care
Apr 7 - Parkinson's Drug Highly Effective for Resistant Depression