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New Research Confirms Link Between Pesticides and Parkinson's Disease

May 29, 2013

A fresh look at previous research suggests that exposure to pesticides is related to an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. Dr. James Bower, a neurologist from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester who wasn’t involved in the study, tells Reuters: "We're definitely learning that Parkinson's disease is not caused by one thing. We're finding a lot of risks for Parkinson's, and pesticides are just one of many." Parkinson’s affects approximately 500,000 people in the United States.

The study was conducted by Dr. Emanuele Cereda of the IRCCS University Hospital San Matteo Foundation in Pavia, Italy. He and his coauthor analyzed data from 104 studies between 1975 and 2011.Overall, they found that exposure to pesticides was associated with a 58 percent increased risk of developing Parkinson’s. Cereda and his colleague also found that the plant killers paraquat and fungus killers such as maneb and mancozeb were linked to a twofold increased risk of the disease.

Dr. Cereda told Reuters Health that the results of the study show that people should avoid exposure to pesticides or at the very least wear the proper protective gear. "The use of protective equipment and compliance with suggested, or even recommended, preventive practices should be emphasized in high-risk working categories (such as farming)," he wrote.

According to Dr. Bower, the new findings suggest that exposure to pesticides equate to 10 more cases of Parkinson’s in every 1,000 40-year-old residents living in Olmstead County. He also told Reuters that farm workers who regularly use pesticides face more risk than those who use weed killers in their home. Bower also went on to say that people who are exposed to pesticides in their work should wear the protective gear recommended by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Previous research has already raised safety concerns about the potential dangers of pesticides. In 2011, a study of U.S. farmers by the National Institutes of Health suggested that pesticides interfered with cell function. The following year, another study found that people diagnosed with Parkinson’s were more likely to be exposed to pesticides.

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