I have posted about my father’s battle with Parkinson’s Disease. I have also stated that I believe all the things he has done during his lifetime have had a direct relationship to the disease. Are there genetic factors involved as well? That is possible. However, his exposure to so many toxic substances certainly contributed to cell death in the dopamine neurons.
Parkinson’s Disease is a chronic progressive movement disorder that affects the lives of at least one half million patients across the United States. People with Parkinson’s Disease also experience non-motor symptoms including changes in cognition and mood, sleep disturbances and autonomic dysfunction.
The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation states: In some people, genetic factors may play a role; in others, illness, an environmental toxin or other event may contribute to Parkinson’s Disease.
Although researchers increasingly recognize the importance of genetics in Parkinson’s, most believe environmental exposures increase a person’s risk of developing the disease. Even in inherited cases, exposure to toxins or other environmental factors may influence when symptoms appear and how the disease progresses. Researchers are also pursuing viruses as another possible environmental trigger. NIEHS (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) funded researchers in Alabama who have discovered that a common soil bacterium produces a metabolite that disrupts a protein degradation pathway associated with Parkinson’s Disease.
The NIEHS also funded epidemiologists at the University of California Los Angeles. They found that exposure to the combination of the fungicide maneb and the herbicide paraquat increased the risk of later development of Parkinson’s Disease. The study also reports that living within 500 meters (about 1/3 of a mile) of agricultural operations where the pesticides were sprayed increased the risk by 75 percent. The exposures occurred between 1975 and 1999. The study included 368 long-term Central Valley residents with Parkinson’s. (The scary part is that I live in the Central Valley.)
Currently there are no biomarkers for Parkinson’s. A study has recently been launched to accelerate research into biomarkers for Parkinson’s Disease.
The Collaborative on Health and the Environment also talks about Parkinson’s Disease and environmental risk factors. Some risks are having had a head injury or a history of depression (this interests me). Other risks are living in a rural area and drinking well water (Could this be from chemicals being used in farms and dairies?). Other risk factors are being a farmer, rancher, fisher or a welder (Welders like my father are exposed to copper fumes and manganese which has been said to be an environmental factor in Parkinson’s Disease). Lastly they list being frequently exposed to solvents and my father used to have his hands in solvents all the time degreasing auto parts and engines.
According to the report in Collaborative on Health and the Environment: Many neurologists tell their patients “genetics loads the gun, but the environment pulls the trigger.” This could also be said about other diseases . How many of us have a predisposition to a certain illness and environmental exposures pull the trigger? The report goes on to state that the standard against which other chemicals are evaluated when assessing causal links to Parkinson’s is MPTP (MPTP (1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine) is a neurotoxin precursor to MPP+, which causes permanent symptoms of Parkinson’s disease by destroying dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra of the brain.). In the 1980s, some San Francisco drug users mistakenly took MPTP—a compound chemically similar to the pesticide paraquat—instead of heroin. Within weeks or months, many of them developed irreversible Parkinson-like symptoms. The chemical has a consistently similar effect in lab animals.
I just find this all very discomforting. My dad may have the genetic predisposition to getting Parkinson’s Disease, but all that he was exposed to as neurologists have said may very well have pulled the trigger for him. If he has this gene, do I?
What are your thoughts? Do any of you know of someone suffering from Parkinson’s? Did they have any of these kinds of exposures during their lifetime? I am curious.