People in New Haven who are living with Parkinson’s disease, or know someone who is, may wonder how and why people develop the neurological illness. There is a lot about Parkinson’s that physicians still do not know, though much of the literature suggests that genetics plays a major role. A new study argues that environmental factors like brain injuries could also be a factor.
The study, which was published in the Nov. 12 issue of Neurology, suggested that a combination of head injuries and exposure to pesticides may have triggered Parkinson’s disease in hundreds of people within a specific geographic area. The chemical specifically tested for in the study is paraquat, a common pesticide. Researchers surveyed 1,000 people age 35 or older who lived in the same part of another state. Of the 1,000, 357 had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
The results were interesting. Parkinson’s patients were twice as likely as other participants to have sustained a brain injury in their lives that caused more than five minutes of unconsciousness. They were also more likely to live within 500 meters — less than a third of a mile — from a place where paraquat was used to kill weeds.
While cautioning that the study does not prove that either brain injuries or exposure to paraquat can cause Parkinson’s, it does seem to suggest that head injuries could make the brain more vulnerable to harm from pesticides. More research will likely be necessary to further investigate this possibility, which could also possibly improve treatment and preventative medicine in the future.