Parkinson’s Disease Risk Increased by Metal Pollution Exposure: Study

The findings of a new study suggest that people living near sources of metal pollution may be at a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease

In the study, published on October 16 in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers looked at Parkinson’s disease rates in areas near copper, lead or manganese industrial pollution sources, and found increased incidents of Parkinson’s disease in areas polluted with high amounts of copper and manganese.

Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine sorted through 29 million 2003 Medicare beneficiaries and found more than 35,000 cases of Parkinson’s disease where the person had not changed residence since 1995. Using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data, they found that people living in counties with low or no manganese, copper or lead pollution developed Parkinson’s disease at a rate of about 274 cases per 100,000 people. But in areas of high manganese pollution, that number leapt to 489.4 per 100,000; an increase of 78%. In areas with high levels of copper, 304.2 cases per 100,000 residents were recorded, a 10% increase.

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The researchers determined that environmental exposure to metal, particularly copper and manganese may be a factor in the development of Parkinson’s disease. In agricultural areas, Parkinson’s disease risk has already been tied to chemical exposure in a number of studies. This latest study was the first to look at urban metal pollution. However, there are no confirmed causes of Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s Disease is caused by the death of dopamine-producing cells and causes severe tremors, limb rigidity and other symptoms. The symptoms of the disease usually get worse over time and it is eventually fatal. About 100,000 Americans are diagnosed with the condition each year.


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