Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects the motor activity of the person. Of all its causes, pesticides act as a dominating factor for inducing Parkinson’s disease. Research by Wang, Costello and Costburn reveals that exposure to certain pesticides like Paraquat, Maneb and Ziram increased the risks of Parkinson’s disease by 80%.
Pesticides and Parkinson’s – the connection.
The first glimmer of doubt about the devastating impact of pesticides came in the 1980s when the scientists suspected that Paraquat, a powerful pesticide could well cause Parkinson’s disease. Paraquat had a chemical structure similar to a chemical called MPTP- 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine. This neurotoxin damages the dopamine-producing part of the brain called substantia nigra, thereby inducing Parkinsonism.
Who is affected most by pesticides to cause Parkinson’s disease?
Among the patients with Parkinson’s disease , the ones who are most likely to be affected by pesticides are the ones who have occupational exposure to pesticides. Farmers, gardeners, golfers, horticulturists, plantation workers etc are the most vulnerable preys to pesticides causing Parkinson’s disease. These people are exposed to weeds and plants sprayed with a herbicide like a Paraquat which is the Parkinson-producer. A study by Murphy, Cooper and Clark outlined the hazards due to pesticide inhalation by golfers leading to the ban of 3 pesticides from golf clubs.
Since occupational exposure to pesticides and chemicals increases the risks of Parkinson’s disease by 50%, the effects of Parkinson’s disease is felt by men more than women.
In 2011, the link between Paraquat use by farm workers and Parkinsonism had been irrevocably proved by a U.S. National Institute of Health study. In 2013, Neurology’s meta-analysis claimed that the risks of Parkinson’s disease increased 2 fold with the use of Paraquat.
Paraquat has been banned in many Scandinavian countries, Korea, Austria and Switzerland.
Which pesticides are the most lethal causing Parkinsonism?
According to the U.S. Centre for Disease Control, the pesticides belonging to the group organochlorines and organophosphorus are the ones that are specifically linked to Parkinson’s disease and hence are the most restricted or banned ones. Pyrethroids are another set of common household insecticides which are also likely to cause this disease.
Researchers at UCLA list these pesticides as linked to Parkinson’s disease.
- Insecticides- Permethrin, Beta HCH,
- Fungicides- Maneb, Ziram
- Herbicides-Paraquat, Rotenone, 2-4, D
How Pesticides cause Parkinson’s disease?
Inhalation or skin-exposure to pesticides causes a toxic-inflammatory reaction leading to the synthesis of harmful alpha-synuclein protein thereby causing the loss of dopamine causing neurons. Research by Prof. Ryan has revealed that pesticides also affect the movement of mitochondria cells thereby affecting the energy level of the cell.
Pesticides also inhibit the ALDH enzyme (Aldehyde dehydrogenase) which controls the production of DOPAL. DOPAL is a natural neurotoxin that is responsible for the pathogenesis of Parkinsonism.
How to safeguard oneself from harmful pesticides causing Parkinson’s disease?
- Use gloves while gardening or weeding
- Cover your nose with masks to avoid inhaling toxic fumes of pesticides
- Washing the hands and face well after gardening or working in the fields.
- Washing fruits and vegetables before eating to avoid consumption of pesticides.
- Avoid using banned or restricted pesticides.
- Organize a Parkinson’s support program to create awareness of the dangers of the disease.
Parkinson’s support program
The objectives of Parkinson’s support program are to
- Create awareness of Parkinson’s disease, its causes and effects
- Educate the people on the precautions to be taken to avoid Parkinsonism
- Offer to counsel to patients with Parkinson’s disease
- Share experiences of Parkinson survivors with other Parkinson patients.
Having learned that Parkinson’s disease can be caused by pesticides, spread the word around and exercise caution while handling pesticides to prevent Parkinsonism.