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Greg Webb
Greg Webb
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Pesticides On Foods and In Our Environment = Increase Risk for Parkinson’s

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If you eat fruits and vegetables, play golf or go to your local park you are likely being exposed to pesticides. Pesticides are used in office buildings, businesses, and homes; we may have banned the most dangerous ones, like DDT, but they are still commonplace in our everyday lives.  And they remain a pervasive health concern.

Recent research shows a link between pesticide exposure and Parkinson’s disease. This latest finding follows results published last month showing a connection between DDT and a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  Scientists are finding proof that pesticides linger in our bodies for many years, and can interact with other factors to heighten the risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.  (Time, 1/28/14)

As reported in the journal Neurology, UCLA researchers investigated the link between pesticides and Parkinson’s and found increased risks when genetic factors are present. The scientists looked at a range of pesticides and found eleven pesticides that contribute to the risk of getting Parkinson’s disease.

“We were very surprised that so many pesticides inhibited ALDH and at quite low concentrations, concentrations that were way below what was needed for the pesticides to do their job,” according to study author Dr. Jeff Bronstein, a professor of neurology and director of the Movement Disorders Program at UCLA.  (Time, 2/3/14)  ALDH is an enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase that fights a naturally occurring toxin in the brain called DOPAL. If ALDH is inhibited, the detoxifying process is hampered allowing DOPAL to build up and lead to the development of Parkinson’s.

The conclusions reached by the UCLA scientists’ support the connection between genetics and other (outside) factors in contributing to Parkinson’s. This is a similar conclusion made in earlier research on pesticides and Alzheimer’s. “This is one of the first studies identifying a strong environmental risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease,” said study co-author Dr. Allan Levey, the director of Emory’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and chair of neurology at Emory University School of Medicine.  (Time, 1/28/14)

There is little an individual can do to offset genetic risks for a disease, but environmental factors, like exposure to pesticides, can be minimized. Individuals may reduce risks by eating organic foods and decreasing or eliminating pesticides in homes and businesses.  Knowing of the risks is a big part of the battle.  Hopefully, public awareness and advocacy, combined with reasonable regulations, will help offset the potential harm caused by necessary pesticides.