Chemical exposure significantly increases risk of Parkinson’s disease: Study | Health

Exposure to TCE, a liquid chemical found in air, water and soil, can increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease by 70 percent after two years. TCE, or trichlorethylene, has been linked to some cancers in the past, but a new study to be published in JAMA Neurology on May 15, 2023 is considered the first significant study to show a link between TCE and Parkinson’s.

Long-term exposure to TCE, a persistent liquid chemical in the environment, could potentially increase the risk of Parkinson's disease. (Unsplash)
Long-term exposure to TCE, a persistent liquid chemical in the environment, could potentially increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease. (Unsplash)

TCE has been used for industrial and commercial purposes for nearly 100 years, and was used as a surgical anesthetic until it was banned in 1977. More recently it was used as a reducing solvent. Today, it is mainly used to degrease industrial metal parts. It heats the TCE in degreasing tanks to create vapors that dissolve the grease, but it also releases the chemical into the atmosphere. Once TCE enters soil or groundwater, it can persist for decades. (Also read: Tips for patients and caregivers to live well with Parkinson’s disease )

In the study, researchers led by UC San Francisco and the San Francisco VA Medical Center compared Parkinson’s diagnoses in nearly 160,000 Navy and Marine veterans. More than half came from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where TCE was used to degrade military equipment and the water was contaminated; The rest came from Camp Pendleton in California, where the water was not contaminated.

Service members spent at least three months at the camps between 1975 and 1985, a period when TCE in water at Camp Lejeune exceeded maximum safety levels by 70-fold. The researchers accessed follow-up health data on service members between 1997 and 2021, the time when Parkinson’s might have been expected to develop. The researchers found that 430 veterans were diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and the risk was 70% higher in Lejeune veterans than in Pendleton veterans. On average, service members from both camps were stationed there for about two years from 1975 to 1985.

Residence began at an average age of 20, and Parkinson’s was diagnosed at an average age of 54 in Lejeune and 53 in Pendleton, indicating that the disease took decades to develop after TCE exposure. Civilian populations are also at risk of TCE exposure, said first author Samuel M. Goldman, MD, MPH, UCSF Division of Occupational, Environmental and Climate Medicine, and SFVA, between 9% and 34% of US water supplies. A supply contains a measurable quantity of a chemical.

“TCE is still a widely used chemical in the United States and around the world. Its production has increased over the past several years and it is widely available online,” he said. “Unfortunately, unless you work directly with them, there’s no easy way to know if you’ve been exposed. Most of us have detectable levels of TCE in our bodies, but it’s metabolized and excreted very quickly, so the blood and urine. Tests reflect only recent exposure.”

In addition, the researchers found that Lejeune veterans had a higher prevalence of prodromal Parkinson’s—symptoms that suggest Parkinson’s but do not yet meet diagnostic criteria. “Lack of smell, a sleep disorder known as RBD, anxiety, depression and constipation can be early symptoms of Parkinson’s, but only a small proportion of people who have them will develop them,” senior author Carolyn M. Tanner, MD said. , PhD, UCSF Department of Neurology, Weill Institute for Neuroscience and SFVA.

“The risk of developing Parkinson’s in the future can be estimated using a risk score based on these symptoms. The Lejeune veterans had higher risk scores than the Pendleton veterans, making them more likely to develop Parkinson’s in the future.”

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