Researchers found a six-fold increase in the risk of developing Parkinson’s in individuals exposed in the workplace to trichloroethylene (TCE). Although many uses for TCE have been banned around the world, the chemical is still used as a degreasing agent. Parkinson’s can result in limb tremors, slowed movement and speech impairment, but the exact cause of the disease is still unknown, and there is no cure.
Researchers from institutes in the US, Canada, Germany and Argentina, wanted to examine the impact of solvent exposure – specifically six solvents including TCE. They looked at 99 sets of twins, one twin with Parkinson’s, the other without. The findings are presented as the first study to report a “significant association” between TCE exposure and Parkinson’s and suggest exposure to the solvent was likely to result in a six-fold increase in the chances of developing the disease. “Our findings, as well as prior case reports, suggest a lag time of up to 40 years between TCE exposure and onset of Parkinson’s, providing a critical window of opportunity to potentially slow the disease before clinical symptoms appear.”
TCE has been used in paints, glue, carpet cleaners, dry-cleaning solutions and as a degreaser. It has been banned in the food and pharmaceutical industries in most regions of the world since the 1970s, due to concerns over its toxicity. In 1997, the US authorities banned its use as an anesthetic, skin disinfectant, grain fumigant and coffee decaffeinating agent, but it is still used as a degreasing agent for metal parts. Groundwater contamination by TCE is widespread, with studies estimating up to 30% of US drinking water supplies are contaminated with TCE.
Article Title: Study links Parkinson’s disease to industrial solvent
Author: Neil Bowdler
Publication source: BBC News, November 13, 2011
Student Researcher: Sara Iadavaia, Sonoma State University
Faculty Evaluator: Forrest Deseran Sonoma State University