Daily News Archive
From September 9, 2005

Environmental Toxins Linked to Parkinson's
(Beyond Pesticides, September 9, 2005)
Exposure to certain chemicals found in pesticides and herbicides may increase the risk of Parkinson's disease in people with a family history of the disease, according to a new study. Researchers say the findings support evidence of a possible link between environmental toxins and Parkinson's disease and may help explain why some people with genetic risk factors for the disease get it while others do not.

Parkinson's disease is a common neurological disorder that can occur randomly or as the result of inherited gene mutations. Numerous past studies have found connections between Parkinson’s disease and pesticides and other environmental toxins, but this study is the first to explain how genetic factors affect the connection. Read more about the evidence for pesticide’s link to Parkinson’s in Beyond Pesticides Daily News archives.

In the study, which appears in Current Biology, researchers looked at fruit flies lacking both forms of a gene that is associated with the inherited form of Parkinson's disease. These specially bred fruit flies became extremely sensitive to the herbicide paraquat and the insecticide rotenone and died after exposure.

Researchers based their study on previous findings that show exposure to environmental toxins may raise the risk of developing the disease by increasing the rate of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is related to the body's ability to eliminate free radicals in the body and can result in cell damage within the body.

In the study, researchers showed that flies lacking forms of the DJ-1 gene were normal under standard conditions. But when they were exposed to high doses of the herbicide paraquat and insecticide rotenone, which have previously been linked to Parkinson's disease, the flies suffered from extreme oxidative stress and died.

Researchers say these findings suggest that a loss of DJ-1 gene function increases sensitivity to chemicals that cause oxidative stress. Together, researchers say the results shed new light on the biological connections between the inherited and sporadic forms of Parkinson's disease and may lead to more effective treatments.

Write to U.S.EPA Acting Administrator Stephen Johnson to let him know that they have a duty to alert the public to the scientific findings (laboratory and epidemiologic) that link pesticides with Parkinson's disease. In addition, urge these EPA officials to initiate an urgent and expedited review of pesticides' link to Parkinson's.