medicine forum Guru Wannabe
Joined: 28 Apr 2005
|Posted: Thu Jul 13, 2006 1:11 pm Post subject:
Emory Univ: Banned Pesticide Causes Parkinsons--C Aspect Too
Please note mention of the "probable" C aspect, while Parkinsons is the
Study links Parkinson's to pesticide
By BILL HENDRICK
Cox News Service
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
ATLANTA - People who were exposed to a common pesticide while in the
womb or during breast-feeding decades ago may be at increased risk of
developing Parkinson's disease after age 50 than contemporaries who
weren't, according to Emory University scientists whose studies on
pregnant and nursing mice demonstrated the link.
The pesticide dieldrin was commonly used for insect control in crops
and as a termite killer in home foundations, said researcher Gary
Miller, a neurotoxicologist at Emory's Center for Neurodegenerative
Disease. Environmental exposures have long been thought to trigger
Parkinson's in adults, but this is the first study to suggest that
exposure to fetuses and breast-feeding babies could be harmful, Miller
"Although most people are diagnosed in mid to late life with
Parkinson's, experimental evidence suggests that neurodegeneration
begins long before clinical diagnosis," Miller said.
Dieldrin, developed in 1940 as an alternative to DDT, is a probable
human carcinogen, Miller said. The Environmental Protection Agency
banned the pesticide for all uses except termite control in 1974 and
that use was banned in 1987.
Parkinson's disease involves the death of brain cells that produce the
chemical messenger dopamine, a neurotransmitter that sends information
to parts of the brain that control movement and coordination. Victims
are left incapable of initiating and controlling movements normally.
Though Parkinson's is usually considered a disease of aging, 5 percent
of its victims are thought to inherit a mutated gene that causes it,
Miller said. Fifteen percent of Americans diagnosed with Parkinson's
annually are under 50. All told, about 1.5 million Americans have the
Miller said the incidence of Parkinson's is highest in the South and in
rural areas. Emory sees about 2,000 patients with Parkinson's a year.
Dieldrin is still detectable in the environment ?- in the ground, in
home foundations, and many food sources, including shellfish, meat,
dairy and root crops - but levels of the pesticide have decreased
dramatically in recent decades, Miller said.
Because it and similar chemicals persist in the food chain, exposure by
pregnant women now could still pose a risk to their babies, he added.
But Miller said his research should not discourage women from
"The pesticides currently in use do not accumulate in mother's milk the
way these older compounds did," Miller said. "The risk of potential
pesticide exposure via breast-feeding today is far outweighed by the
beneficial effects of breast-feeding."
In the Emory study, pregnant mice were given a dose of dieldrin, or a
placebo, every three days throughout gestation and lactation. Then,
when the mice were three months old, they were killed and their brains
examined for abnormalities that in humans lead to Parkinson's. In the
offspring of mice treated with dieldrin, the researchers found an
elevation of the dopamine transporter, a regulator of the brain system
that in humans is affected by Parkinson's, said Miller. Mice, he added,
"don't typically get Parkinson's disease."
"The fact that we saw these molecular changes in animals ? that had
never been directly exposed to the pesticide indicated the importance
of the developmental exposure," he said.
The study also found that male rodent offspring were more vulnerable
than females. Among humans, men are much more likely to get Parkinson's
than women, he added.
What can be done
Miller said the study's results "provide a potential molecular
mechanism responsible for the association between dieldrin exposure and
increased risk of PD and suggests that greater attention should be
focused on the role of early life exposures and the development of PD."
He said the study suggests that people born between 1940 and 1960 -
when dieldrin was widely used - who were breast-fed are likely at
increased risk for developing Parkinson's. He said he does not know of
any registry that links the disease in humans to possible exposure to
The study should encourage scientists to look "at where mothers of PD
patients lived, whether they breast-fed, lived in rural areas where
pesticides were more likely to have been used," Miller said.
"We have banned these compounds in the United States," he said. "The
better we understand what causes the disease, it might suggest a better
option for treatment."
Link long suspected
A relationship between pesticides and Parkinson's has been thought to
exist for years. Just two weeks ago, researchers at the Harvard School
of Public Health reported anew that people with exposure to pesticides
had a 70 percent higher incidence of Parkinson's than those who hadn't.
Dr. Michael S. Okun, co-director of the Movement Disorders Center at
the University of Florida, said the Emory study should be interpreted
"with caution as it is unclear at this time whether dieldrin is
important in the human form of the disease."
But Okun, also medical director of the National Parkinson Foundation,
added that "the emerging information on the effects of pesticides and
environmental exposures on the development of neurodegenerative
diseases represents an important emerging area of research."
The Emory study, funded by the National Institute of Environmental
Health Science, was published June 29 in the Federation of American
Societies for Experimental Biology Journal.
Bill Hendrick writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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