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    Occupational Exposure to pesticides can cause Parkinson’s

    Exposure to pesticides can cause Parkinson’s

    26 May 2005
    Special Report from New Scientist Print Edition
    Andy Coghlan

    SUSPICIONS that pesticides could cause Parkinson’s disease have been strengthened. The more pesticide you are exposed to, the higher your risk of developing the disease, say investigators who have studied almost 3000 people in five European countries. The results reinforce the need for amateur gardeners and farmers alike to wear protective equipment when spraying pesticides, the team concludes.

    “It considerably strengthens the case for pesticides being relevant to occupational risk of Parkinson’s disease,” says Anthony Seaton of the University of Aberdeen, UK, principal investigator of the Geoparkinson study, which was funded by the European Commission and followed volunteers in Scotland, Italy, Sweden, Romania and Malta.

    Researchers questioned 767 people with Parkinson’s disease and 1989 healthy controls with similar backgrounds about several risk factors associated with the disease, including exposure to pesticides.

    People with Parkinson’s were more likely to have used pesticides regularly. Users with low exposure such as amateur gardeners were 9 per cent more likely than non-users to develop the disease, and high-exposure users such as farmers were 43 per cent more likely.

    David Coggon of the University of Southampton, UK, and chairman of the British government’s Advisory Committee on Pesticides, said the study’s weakness, acknowledged by the authors, is that it could not identify which pesticides were responsible. “It’s possible that just one or two are causing it, but slipped through the regulatory net,” says Coggon. It would be more helpful, he adds, for studies to monitor exposure to individual pesticides as and when they are used, rather than relying on people’s memories of their usage.

    “The more pesticide you are exposed to, the higher your risk of developing Parkinson’s”

    To put the pesticide risks into perspective, Seaton says that the study identified other, much stronger risk factors. Having a family history of the disease increases your risk by 350 per cent, although they found no link between risk of Parkinson’s and 18 gene mutations suspected of causing the disease. Being knocked unconscious once raises the risk by 32 per cent, rising to 174 per cent for those who have been knocked out several times.

    From issue 2501 of New Scientist magazine, 26 May 2005, page 14

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