A new Canadian study from the University of Guelph, in addition to several older studies, have found an association between two common farming pesticides and Parkinson’s disease. The first pesticide “Paraquat” is used as crops grow and the second pesticide “Maneb” is used after harvest to prevent spoiling. Paraquat is banned in the UK along with 31 other countries but it is still allowed to be used in the U.S.
According to the study, people who were exposed to low-levels of the pesticides had a 250% higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease compared to the general population.
Older studies showing correlation mostly focused on animal subjects as well as epidemiological research on farmers. This new study demonstrates for the first time how the pesticides impact humans on a cellular level. The pesticides appear to disrupt cells similarly to how mutations are known to cause Parkinson’s disease. People with a genetic predisposition for Parkinson’s disease who are exposed significantly increase their risk of disease onset.
Pesticide use became more prevalent in the 1940’s and throughout most of the 1950’s there was little concern over potential health risk. In 1962 a book called Silent Spring by Rachel Carson was published highlighting health concerns which led to banning of several pesticides such as DDT. Over the past few decades there has been greater development of environmentally conscious products as well as greater safety regulations.
Having said that, there is still work to be done. Researchers from this study urge revision of safety standards particularly for those living near farming areas to help reduce exposure and risk of Parkinson’s disease.