The Pesticides That Increase Risk of Parkinson’s Disease

Dragocson, Esgram, Preeglox, Tota-Col and Katalon are names that sound like they should be in science fiction novels. You’ll find them, instead, on the labels of pesticides that contain paraquat, one of the most popular herbicides in the world. We’ve known for a while that long-term exposure to paraquat increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Now a new study suggests that if paraquat exposure is combined with exposure to two other pesticides, the risk of Parkinson’s disease triples.

Learning more about environmental factors that affect the development of this neurological disease is important because its incidence appears to be increasing. Now, an estimated 17 of every 100,000 people are diagnosed with it. Farmers are among those at increased risk.

The two pesticides that don’t go well with paraquat, maneb and ziram, are used to kill fungi. Maneb is found in two products: DB-Green L and Agsco Dustret “A”. Ziram is found in a product called Ziram fungicide.

While exposure to all three pesticides increased risk the most, exposure to ziram and paraquat, without maneb, still managed to increase risk by 80%. Exposure to maneb and paraquat also was worse than exposure to the individual chemicals.

Contact with these pesticides in the workplace increased risk more than exposure at home. Unsurprisingly, exposure at both workplace and at home was worse than exposure at one place or the other. It looks like these compounds may be able to act together to increase the damage to brain cells that causes Parkinson’s disease.

Most people know they should limit their exposure to pesticides. You can improve your chances of maintaining good health by learning what pesticides are used near your home and increasing your efforts to limit exposure. And be sure to avoid unnecessary exposure to multiple products with names that belong in science fiction novels.

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  • Over one million people in the United States suffer from PD. Most patients are over the age of 50, although younger ones are being seen daily. Diagnosis of the illness is based on a neurological examination which includes evaluation of symptoms and their severity. PD does not affect everyone in the same way. Some patients are more severely affected than others. Treatment involves individualizing the various PD medicines available to see which ones help the patient most. Supervised medication adjustments are often needed. In recent years, surgical procedures have been performed on selected patients. In addition to medication, daily exercise is very important for the patient’s well being. Education and support groups also play important roles in helping the patient and caregiver cope with this illness. At present there is no cure.

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