Researchers have examined the link between hundreds of commonly used pesticides and Parkinson’s disease.
They found that 10 pesticides are linked to the development of Parkinson’s disease and damage to dopaminergic neurons. Further studies are needed to confirm these results.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition characterized by motor symptoms, including tremors and rigidity, and non-motor symptoms such as cognitive impairment and sleep disturbances. The causes of Parkinson’s disease are currently unknown. However, the disease is thought to result from a combination of factors, including genetics, environmental factors and aging. A growing body of evidence suggests that exposure to certain pesticides may increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease. Although pesticides are important for modern commercial agriculture and optimizing food production, it is not yet clear how they may contribute to Parkinson’s disease. Better understanding how pesticides affect the risk of Parkinson’s disease could inform agricultural policies and prevention strategies for this disease.

Recently, researchers analyzed hundreds of common pesticides to determine their link to Parkinson’s disease. Ten pesticides have been directly linked to the toxicity and death of dopaminergic neurons, one of the hallmarks of Parkinson’s disease. The study was published in Nature Communications.

These results would have many implications if confirmed by future studies. Pesticide regulations as well as agricultural practices and worker safety may need to be changed. It may be necessary to monitor agricultural workers to see if the incidence is indeed higher. But above all, the study must be confirmed by other means such as animal studies.

People living near agricultural areas are more at risk

For the study, the researchers included data from 829 patients with Parkinson’s disease and 824 controls, as well as their areas of residence. California authorities have been recording commercial pesticide use since 1972, which has allowed researchers to estimate individual exposure to pesticides over time. The researchers included 722 pesticides in their analysis. In the end, they found that patients with Parkinson’s disease were more likely to live and work near agricultural faculties where pesticide use was higher than in controls.

On average, patients with Parkinson’s disease lived near areas where 50 different types of pesticides were used, while controls lived near areas where an average of 45 different pesticides were used.

Which pesticides are likely to increase the risk?

Next, the researchers assessed how a subset of 288 pesticides affected the risk of Parkinson’s disease. Each of these pesticides affected at least 25 participants in the first analysis.
They identified 53 pesticides that seemed to be linked to Parkinson’s disease. The researchers noted that these pesticides associated with Parkinson’s disease were 2 to 3 times more likely to contaminate groundwater than those more prone to release into the air soon after application. The researchers then tested the toxicity of 39 of these pesticides on dopamine neurons from patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Ten of these pesticides caused significant neuronal death. It is:

four insecticides: dicofol, endosulfan, naled and propargite
three herbicides: diquat, endothall and trifluralin
three fungicides: copper sulphate (basic and pentahydrate) and folpet.

They now plan to study the epigenetic and metabolomic effects of the identified pesticides to better understand their link to Parkinson’s disease.

The results may not be fully applicable to humans. The study researchers applied the pesticides directly to the cells, disregarding the presence of a blood-brain barrier that limits the transfer of toxins into the central nervous system in humans. Due to these factors, the results of this study may not be fully applicable to humans.

Reduce pesticides in food

Nevertheless, reducing pesticides in food can be an important step in minimizing the potential health risks that some of these chemicals may pose.

To reduce the amount of pesticides in food, agronomists can assess whether alternative pesticide formulations, for example, solid rather than liquid formulations, or microencapsulated suspensions rather than concentrated solutions, are a viable alternative to traditional pesticides. Scientists may also be able to develop alternative farming systems that require less pesticide use.”

For consumers, washing fruits and vegetables in running water at room temperature can help remove chemicals from the surface of fruits and vegetables. The EPA recommends washing fruits and vegetables rather than soaking them because washing is more effective at removing chemicals and germs from the skins of fruits and vegetables. In addition, peeling fruits and vegetables before eating them can also help reduce the chemical content of these foods, since most pesticides are found on the outer surface of produce.

Reduce the risks associated with the use of pesticides

People who work with pesticides should take special precautions to reduce their exposure. Always store pesticides in their original packaging and avoid transferring them to other containers, such as bottles or cups, where people might accidentally drink them. Wear protective clothing, including gloves, when handling pesticides. Since wind can cause pesticides to spread over larger areas or unintended areas after application, do not apply pesticides on windy days.

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