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Parkinson's Disease Health Center

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Pesticides: A Link to Parkinson's?

Researchers Say Pesticide Exposure and Head Trauma Are Factors in Parkinson's Disease

Identifying Specific Pesticides

The European study is not the first to link pesticide use to an increased risk for Parkinson's disease, or to suggest that risk increases as exposures increase.

Earlier this year, researchers from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) also reported that lifetime exposure to pesticides was associated with an increased risk for the disease.

Freya Kamel, PhD, who led that study team, is conducting related research designed to identify the specific pesticides associated with risk.

She tells WebMD that she expects to publish findings from the study within a year or two.

"We have some ideas about which pesticides or pesticide classes are involved, but this will be a more detailed look at the issue," she says.

Boxing and Parkinson's

Muhammad Ali is at once the world's most famous living boxing legend and the world's most famous Parkinson's patient. His two-decade struggle with the disease has focused the spotlight on head trauma as a potential cause of the neurological disorder.

While the European study suggests a link, it cannot show a causal association because it was not clear if the Parkinson's patients in the study suffered head trauma before or after their disease was diagnosed.

If confirmed, the finding would have major implications for all contact sports, particularly boxing, Dick and colleagues wrote.

National Parkinson Foundation medical director Michael S. Okun, MD, tells WebMD that the European study adds to the growing body of evidence linking specific environmental triggers to Parkinson's disease.

But he adds that these triggers probably tell only part of the story.

"It would be a mistake to assume that this is a disease linked directly to pesticides or linked directly to genes and to close the door on potential interactions between them," he notes in a written statement. "While the causes of Parkinson's aren't known, it is likely influenced by a combination of factors, such as a genetic predisposition for the disease, coupled with environmental triggers."

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