Pesticide Link to Parkinson's Disease Has Strengthened: Study
Agence France-Presse 25may2005
PARIS — Fears that pesticides may cause Parkinson's have been strengthened by research that says the greater the exposure to these chemicals, the higher the risk of developing the disease, New Scientist reports.
Low users of pesticides such as amateur gardeners are nine percent likelier than non-users to develop Parkinson's, while high users, such as farmers, are 43 percent likelier, the study says.
The so-called Geoparkinson study, head-authored by University of Aberdeen scientist Anthony Seaton, investigated the background of 767 volunteers in Scotland, Italy, Sweden, Romania and Malta who had Parkinson's disease.
These were compared against 1,989 "controls" — people who had similar backgrounds but were healthy.
The study does not identify which pesticides could be to blame, and says there are other risk factors for Parkinson's that are much higher.
For instance, having a family history of the disease boosts the risk by 350 percent; being knocked unconscious raises the risk by 32 percent, and those who have been knocked out several times face an increased risk of 174 percent.
The report appears in next Saturday's issue of the weekly British science magazine, which says the study confirms the need for gardeners and farmers to wear protective gear when handling pesticides.
Parkinson's is a currently incurable, degenerative disease of the nervous system, affecting more than one percent of people over the age of 65.
It occurs when there is a loss of cells in a part of the brain that produces dopamine, a neurotransmitter that communicates with other brain cells which regulate motor functions. Symptoms range from tremors and awkwardness and muscular stiffness to a distinctive shuffling gait. The cause of the cell loss is unknown.
The screen actor Michael J. Fox is a sufferer of the disease, as was Pope John Paul II.