Monday, June 10, 2013

Pesticides, Parkinson's, and Procrastination

The American Academy of Neurology recently examined and analyzed 104 studies from around the globe and found an association between exposure to pesticides and solvents and the development of Parkinson's disease. The studies examined exposure to various types of pesticides, including those that target weeds, fungi, rodents, and bugs. Reports of the meta-analysis note the following:

  • Exposure to implicated chemicals increased the risk of developing the disease by 33 to 80 percent.

  • Overall, exposure to pesticides increased the risk by 58 percent.

  • Those exposed to certain chemicals (a weed killer and two fungicides) faced twice the normal risk of developing Parkinson's disease.

  • Farming and living in the country were associated with higher disease rates.

  • The risk of developing the disease increased with the length of time exposed.

My favorite headline reporting on the story was one from Reuters, which stated "Pesticides Again Tied to Parkinson's Disease." "Again" is the interesting word. In fact, my thought upon first reading a report of the analysis was to wonder why it was news. Pesticides and Parkinson's disease have been linked for many years, through many studies. An article on Connecticutt's site quotes the executive director of Grassroots Environmental Education as saying that “for literally decades, we’ve been looking at a link between pesticides and neurodegenerative disorders."

Given that fact, I found an "action point": on the MedPage Today report of the study somewhat frustrating. It advised readers (presumably doctors) to "point out that the evidence linking pesticides or solvents to Parkinson's disease is limited and awaits further studies." How many studies are needed? Are 104 not enough to be taken seriously?

While the government, medical establishment, and industry await further studies, it's wise for each of us to do what we can to protect ourselves and those around us from the myriad dangers of pesticides and solvents. Avoiding them is easier said than done, especially for those who live in agricultural areas, but we can choose not to use pesticides in our own homes and yards and we can support pesticide-free farming by choosing to buy organic food, cotton, and other products. We don't need to contribute to unnecessary suffering. We can do our part to reduce the risk now.

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