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Pesticide Exposure Linked to Raising Risk for Parkinson’s

Update Date: May 28, 2013 02:12 PM EDT

Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder in which the central nervous system deteriorates to the point where motor skills become impaired, potentially leading to paralysis. People with Parkinson's suffer from shaking, imbalance and stiffness. According to the National Parkinson Foundation, nearly 50,000 to 60,000 new cases of Parkinson's are diagnosed per year. There is no cure for Parkinson's, which is why studying the causes is vital in preventing the disease. In a new study, Italian researchers discovered a link between pesticide exposure and the risk of developing Parkinson's later in life.

"Due to this association, there was also a link between farming or country living and developing Parkinson's in some of the studies," Dr. Emanuele Cereda, the lead researcher, said. Cereda is from the IRCCS University Hospital San Matteo Foundation in Pavia.

Pesticides, which are most commonly used to kill bugs and weeds, could have a negative effect on people who are exposed to the product frequently. According to the researchers that reviewed 104 published studies, they found that exposure to pesticides and solvents increased the risk of Parkinson's disease by 33 to 80 percent. The researchers found that agents, such as weed killer paraquat and fungicides maneb and mancozeb, were responsible for the higher percentages of the risk factor in developing Parkinson's. Although this study found a correlation between pesticide exposure and Parkinson's, it did not look into how the exposure occurred nor did it find a causal relationship.

"We didn't study whether the type of exposure, such as whether the compound was inhaled or absorbed through the skin, and the method of application, such as spraying or mixing, affected Parkinson's risk," Cereda said. "However, our study suggests that the risk increases in a dose response manner as the length of exposure to these chemicals increases."

The study was published in Neurology

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