Common Pesticides Linked to the Development of Parkinson’s
It has been known for quite some time that exposure to certain types of pesticides significantly increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. New research released in the February 2014 edition of the journal Neurology uncovers a link between developing Parkinson’s to more pesticides and at concentrations much lower than was previously thought to be harmful.
The research expanded upon a previous study that found a link between Parkinson’s disease and the fungicide Benomyl, the use of which has been banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The focus of the study was on an important enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). ALDH converts compounds known as aldehydes — which are highly toxic to dopamine-producing brain cells — to a less toxic substance. The researchers discovered that benomyl significantly inhibited the activity of that enzyme which led to the destruction of those dopamine producing cells and an increased risk for the development of Parkinson’s disease.
For the new study, researches tested a number of other pesticides and found that 11 commonly used pesticides had significant impact on the aldehyde dehydrogenase enzyme and the development of Parkinson’s disease in humans with a specific type of gene variation. The role of these pesticides and the development of Parkinson’s applies to a group of people with a common genetic mutation in the aldehyde dehydrogenase enzyme. People without the genetic mutation did not seem to have the associated increased risk. According to the data, the degree of risk was significant, with certain pesticides increasing the risk of Parkinson’s by six times!
“These Pesticides are Pretty Ubiquitous”
The scary part is that several of the pesticides tested are not only commonly used, but were associated with the development of Parkinson’s at levels much lower than expected. We are talking about levels of exposure that you or I might encounter daily; levels associated with common activities such as eating conventional produce that’s been routinely sprayed with pesticides, or inhabiting a home or work space that has been sprayed for pest control. Lead study author Dr. Jeff Bronstein, MD says “These pesticides are pretty ubiquitous, and can be found on our food supply and are used in parks and golf courses and in pest control inside buildings and homes. So this significantly broadens the number of people at risk.”
This data implies a strong need for people with this genetic variation to actively reduce daily exposure to pesticides. At this time genetic testing for this gene variant is not readily available so it seems like a prudent recommendation for most people to adopt lifestyle habits that minimize exposure to pesticides.
How You Can Avoid Dangerous Pesticide Exposure
Although it is not endorsed in this study, it is my opinion that one of the easiest ways to reduce pesticide exposure is to eat an organic diet. Previous research conducted by Dr. Alex Lu at Harvard University has shown elevated levels of pesticides in the urine of children eating treated food. When those individuals are switched to an organic diet, pesticide residues in the urine decline significantly. The data in this study brings to light the risk associated with pesticide exposure from our food supply and its potential role in the development of Parkinson’s disease for genetically susceptible individuals. Eating food produced organically (without the use of synthetic pesticides or herbicides) dramatically reduces pesticide exposure. For a list of foods that commonly contain the highest levels of pesticide residues, visit www.ewg.org. These are foods that you most certainly want to buy organic because they often contain very high residues of pesticides when grown with conventional farming techniques.
Another important step is to immediately stop the use of applying any and all chemical based pesticides inside of your home. The residual exposure created by such practices can constitute a significant risk. If you can request that your office or workspace in your work environment also be spared from treatment with pesticides that will further help reduce exposure risk.
At the end of the day, we are learning that exposure to chemicals we have been told are safe can significantly increase the risk of certain disease processes. It is foolish to think that we can put so much chemical pressure on human physiology without consequence. Remember that most of the chemicals used today have only been in existence for 50-70 years. They are new to our body and the long term impacts are clearly not fully understood. So do what is logical. Reduce exposure by eating food produced the way it was meant to be grown. This is not only good for your body but also good for preserving the fertility of our soil and health of our planet.
Dr. Passero completed four years of post-graduate medical education at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon after receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Biology from the University of Colorado. Dr. Passero has trained with some of the nation’s leading doctors in the field of natural medicine. In his practice, Dr. Passero focuses on restoring harmony to both the body and mind using advanced protocols that incorporate herbal therapy, homeopathy, vitamin therapy and nutritional programs. Through education and guidance patients are able to unlock the natural healing power contained within each one of us. For more information, visit his website, Green Healing Wellness, or follow him on Facebook.