Monday, January 7, 2013

Pesticides and Parkinson's: UCLA researchers uncover further proof of a link

credit: UCLA Newsroom
Study Suggests Potential New Target in Fight Against Debilitating Disease. The fertile soils of California's Central Valley has long made it famous as one of the nation's prime crop growing regions. But it's not just the soil that allows for such productivity. Crops like potatoes, dry beans and tomatoes have long been protected from bugs and weeds by the fungicide maneb, and the herbicide paraquat which have been linked to Parkinson's Disease. Now another chemical cousin, Benomyl is suspect.

By Mark Wheeler - January 03, 2013

For several years, neurologists at UCLA have been building a case that a link exists between pesticides and Parkinson's disease. To date, paraquat, menab, and ziram - common chemicals sprayed in California's Central Valley and elsewhere - have been tied to increases in the disease,  not only among farmworkers, but in individuals who simply lived or worked near fields and likely inhaled drifting particles. 
 Now UCLA researchers have discovered a link between Parkinson's and another chemical, benomyl, whose toxicological effects still linger some 10 years after the chemical was banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 
Even more significantly, the research suggests that the damaging series of events set in motion by benomyl may also occur in people with Parkinson's disease who were never exposed to the pesticide, according to Jeff Bronstein, senior author of the study and a professor of neurology at UCLA, and his colleagues. 
Benomyl exposure, they say, starts a cascade of cellular events that may lead to Parkinson's. The pesticide prevents and enzyme called ALDH (aldehyde dehydrogenase) from keeping a lid on DOPAL, a toxin that naturally occurs in the brain. When left unchecked by ALDH, DOPAL accumulates, damages neurons and increases and individual's risk of developing Parkinson's. 
The research is published in the current online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Parkinson's disease is a debilitating neurodegenerative disorder that effects millions worldwide. It's symptoms - including tremor, rigidity, and slowed movements and speech - increase with the progressive degeneration of neurons, primarily in a part of the mid-brain called the substantia nigra. This area normally produces Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that allows cells to communicate, and damage to the mid-brain has been linked to the disease. Usually, by the time Parkinson's symptoms manifest themselves, more than half of these neurons, known as dopaminergic neurons, have already been lost. - While researchers have identified certain genetic variations that cause an inherited form of Parkinson's, only a small fraction of the disease can be blamed on genes, said the study's first author, Arthur G. Fitzmaurice, a postdoctoral scholar in Bronstein's laboratory.

 "As a result, environmental factors almost certainly play an important role in this disorder," Fitzmaurice said. "Understanding the relevant mechanisms - particularly what causes the selective loses of dopaminergic neurons - may provide important cluse to explain how the disease develops."

Credit: Science Daily
I remember in the 1980s staying at friends house on 40 acres west of Brawley California and being woken up by early morning aerial spraying by Crop Duster Planes. The fumes were sickening as they drifted over to their property. Who knows what the product used and how bad it truly was. I guess Cesar Chavez was right all along, wasn't he ? My great uncle had Parkinson's Disease. Now I wonder how he may have been exposed.

Past Research on this subject:

High Risk of Parkinson's disease for people exposed to pesticides near workplace.

Study first to implicate pesticide ziram as possible cause for disease By Mark Wheeler May 26, 2011
Pesticide Exposure Found to Increase the Risk of Parkinson's Disease

Study finds exposure may have occurred years before symptoms appear By Mark Wheeler April 20, 2009


  1. I am glad that they are doing research on Home Pesticides. These types of facts scare the living daylight out of me. It is something I hope isn't true, but would be really glad to know if it is (for everyone's sake). I hope they uncover the truth through their research.

    1. I'm glad you appreciated the info Brendan. My approach when I supervised Landscape installation and maintenance was to create a healthy environment for the various specific plants we had and much of that had to do with mycorrhizal and bacterial inoculant for colonizing root systems and leaving chemical fertilizers out of the picture. At best just keep applying mulch to feed gradually. Do that and pesticide use can be eliminated. The ONLY TIME they should be used is in an emergency situation where massive numbers of pests occupy an unnatural unhealthy situation or circumstance. But a regular program of spraying is just flat out stupid. The goal is to replicate nature.

  2. Timeless, both of my great aunts, who lived in Lovelock, Nevada, and had a huge cattle ranch up there, died of breast cancer. NO OTHER females in my family have had breast cancer. In fact, my own grandmother lived to be 100. BUT, she and my grandfather (who lived to be 97...) ate a LOT of their own home-grown produce. We have all assumed that they died from their exposure to pesticides at the ranch. I used to teach down at Mecca, in the elementary school, and I remember seeing the crop dusting planes go by. Now I try to buy and eat as much organic food as I can...

  3. Yes, and a LOT of my students are farmworkers' children. I've noticed in the last few years that they CANNOT sit still, they CANNOT focus, and they CANNOT remember information! I am assuming this is from their parents' pesticide contamination. They also eat a lot of the crops from the fields where they work and I'm SURE those are covered with pesticides, as well as the grapes they consume. EXCELLENT ARTICLE!


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