A new study just published in BMC Neurology confirms that exposure to pesticides increases the likelihood of developing Parkinson’s Disease — and that risk increases with long-term, repeated exposure. Previous studies have turned up similar results.
In this most recent research, a team from Duke University, the University of Miami, and the Parkinson’s Disease Research Center tracked 600 subjects who had been exposed to pesticides and compared them with their non-exposed close relatives, with whom they shared genetic and environmental backgrounds. The subjects who had used pesticides had an increased risk factor of 61 percent compared to their relatives who had not been exposed. Risk increased significantly with increased exposure. Those directly exposed to pesticides 10 or more days a year were more than twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s. And again, risk increased with long-term exposure over a course of years.
Although the researchers point out that genetic factors can play a role in the development of the disease, the correlation actually increases among those without a family history. Patients who developed Parkinson’s but had no genetic factors were 3.25 times more likely to report high cumulative pesticide-exposure levels, a sure indicator that exposure to pesticides plays a very key role in causing the disease. It’s worth noting that among the worst offenders were some products in common use: the home-and-garden insecticide chlorpyrifos, the household insecticide diazinon, and the agricultural insecticide malathion (the stuff California chose to spray over vast numbers of its citizens during the 1980’s to control fruit flies).
Unfortunately, even if you don’t garden or spray your home to keep out the creepy crawlers, you’re not necessarily safe. If you live in an area that sprays along the roadways or in vacant lots, you’re at risk. If you drink groundwater that contains traces of herbicides or pesticides, you’re at risk. If your fruits and vegetables have been sprayed, you’re at risk. And if you inadvertently walk into a store or building that just had a visit from the bug-man, you’re at risk, too. Plus, you’re at risk not only for Parkinson’s—but also for Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, birth defects, a host of cancers, and non-Hodgkins lymphoma — all linked to pesticide exposure.
But direct exposure to pesticides isn’t the most critical issue — it’s that environmental contamination of all sorts has become omnipresent in daily life. It’s not just pesticides; it’s 100,000 other industrial chemicals released into the environment over the last 50 years. We need to be aware that we’re at risk even if we eat organic and live far away from obvious sources of pollution. Basically, we’re living in an environment where we experience constant, low-levels of exposure to a toxic mix of chemicals in our food, our water, our building materials, our clothing, our personal care products, our cleaning fluids, and our air — essentially, in every place we turn. As the Parkinson’s study shows, cumulative exposure to these chemicals causes more harm than a single event, and you can bet that the harm increases even more when that long-term exposure involves multiple combination of toxins, even at very low levels.
And so, the next time some government official tells you that releasing a chemical into the environment is safe because the levels are so small, take it with a grain of salt — or better yet, take it with a dose of your favorite detox formula.